HC Deb 06 August 1913 vol 56 cc1497-546

(1) Maternity benefit shall in every case be the mother's benefit, and paragraph (e) of Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the principal Act shall be altered accordingly by the insertion of the words "to the mother of the child" after the first word "payment" in that paragraph; and in Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen of the principal Act for the words "treated as a benefit for her husband, and shall be administered in cash or otherwise by the approved society of which he is a member" there shall be substituted the words "administered in the interests of the mother and child in cash or otherwise by the approved society of which the husband is a member."

(2) At the end of Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen of the principal Act the following words shall be inserted— Where a woman who is an employed contributor is the wife of an insured person, then—

  1. (a) if her husband is a member of an approved society, and by reason of an insufficient number of contributions having been paid by or in respect of him, or on account of arrears, no maternity benefit is payable in respect of his insurance, she shall on her confinement be entitled to receive in respect of her own insurance such sum as she would have been entitled to receive if he had not been an insured person; and
  2. (b>) if her husband is a deposit contributor, and by reason of an insufficient number of contributions having been paid by or in respect of him or of the insufficiency of the sum standing to his credit in the Deposit Contributors' Fund, no maternity benefit or a sum less than the full maternity benefit is payable in respect of his insurance, she shall on her confinement be entitled to receive, in respect of her own insurance, such sum as, with the sum (if any) payable in respect of her husband's insurance, is equal to the sum she would have been entitled to receive if he had not been an insured person.

(3) Where a woman confined of a child is herself an insured person and is a married woman or, if the child is a posthumous child, a widow, she shall, in lieu of any sickness or disablement benefit to which she may be entitled under Subsection (6) of Section eight of the principal Act, be entitled to receive a maternity benefit from the society of which she is a member or the insurance committee, as the case may be, in addition to any maternity benefit to which she may be otherwise entitled in respect of her husband's or her own insurance, and every approved society and insurance committee shall make rules to the satisfaction of the Insurance Commissioners requiring any woman in respect of whom any such sum is payable in respect of her own insurance to abstain from remunerative work during a period of four weeks after her confinement.

(4) So much of Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen of the principal Act as provides that if a duly-qualified medical practitioner is summoned in pursuance of the rules made under the Midwives Act, 1902, the prescribed fee shall, subject to regulations made by the Insurance Commissioners, be recoverable as part of the maternity benefit shall cease to have effect.

Amendment proposed [5th August], to leave out the words "and paragraph (e) of Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the principal Act shall be altered accordingly by the insertion of the words 'to the mother of the child' after the first word 'payment' in that paragraph, and to insert instead thereof the words "but where the benefit is payable in respect of the husband's insurance, the wife's receipt or his receipt on her behalf shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or committee, and, where the benefit is paid to the husband, he shall pay it to the wife or apply it for the maintenance and care of the wife and child."—[Mr. George Roberts.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill." Debate resumed.


I think the Clause that I am proposing to amend has given rise to a controversy which, in my opinion, is altogether disproportionate to the abuses alleged which all Members of the House desire to see removed. None will deny that abuses in the administration of maternity benefit have been established, and, so far as we can, we are prepared to do what we can to redress the evils that do exist. On the other hand, when seeking to remove one abuse, we have to take great care that we are not setting up abuses on the other side equally objectionable. In my opinion, the fact that there are a few bad husbands in the country constitutes no good reason for panic legislation against all husbands. I believe that the great class of working-class husbands are really decent people, and are always concerned to do the right thing by their womenfolk on the occasion that we have under consideration. I object to the Clause as it stands in the Bill because it legislates against a whole sex in the community, and I very strongly resent the implication that working-class husbands cannot be trusted to do the right thing towards their wives. I recognise, with other hon. Members, that in a few isolated cases maternity benefit has been abused, and, therefore, I was quite agreeable and even sought to find some means of preventing the repetition of such abuses as did exist. I acknowledge that the problem is a very difficult one. I do not think that if you alter the original Act and say that maternity benefit shall be the exclusive legal right of the woman, you can be satisfied that no further abuses will arise. Everybody with practical experience will agree that there are indifferent women as well as indifferent men, and if you recognise that abuses may arise whatever provisions you establish, I think you will also have to appreciate the fact that a mere declaration is not sufficient to meet the case we are now considering. It has already been decided upstairs that the new Bill shall declare that the maternity benefit in every case shall be the mother's benefit. I desire it to be perfectly well understood that I am not disputing that in the slightest degree, and that is not brought into question by the Amendment I am now submitting to the House.

I believe it was the intention of the original Act that the maternity benefit should be the benefit of the woman and everybody is concerned to see to it that, as far as practical measures can be devised, the mother and the child shall have the full advantage of the maternity benefit. But when you have made that declaration you have not solved the real difficulty. A number of societies to my knowledge have recognised that some men are not to be fully trusted with this 30s., and they have exercised a discretion under which they have paid the 30s. direct to the wife of the insured man. They have felt that perhaps this might be open to challenge, and they have represented to some of us that the certificate for the receipt by either the wife or the husband should be accepted as a sufficient discharge of the liability of that society. That is the real problem which we ought to have contemplated. There was no occasion to go beyond that. Once we depart from it, we are beset with a vast number of difficulties which we are compelled to consider. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Salisbury (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) in perfect good faith introduced this question in the Committee upstairs, and recognised that after the statutory declaration some administrative provision must be incorporated. Thus, the first proposal was that the benefit should be the exclusive property of the woman; but because of the practical difficulty of a society getting a receipt from a woman placed in that extremely delicate position, it was also proposed that she should be allowed to nominate some other woman to draw the benefit on her behalf.

My attitude on this question has been very much misrepresented, because I made a speech following upon that proposal. My objection was to the fact that it was then proposed to draw any woman into this transaction, whilst expressly excluding the husband. I have a deep-rooted objection to Parliament interfering as between man and wife, and to say by law or by implication that a man is not to be trusted to do right under these circumstances is in my opinion either to display a gross lack of knowledge of working-class husbands or to be desirous of setting up what is equally objectionable—almost a position of war between the sexes. That would lead to great disaster. The man is the insured person and the woman, because of the circumstances for which the benefit has been established, is the person entitled to get the full advantage of that benefit. Therefore, my view has been that it is a joint question as between husband and wife, and that Parliament would do wrong to say that it should be the legal property of one and that the other partner in the matter should be excluded by law from taking any part in administering the benefit thus paid. What happens in the ordinary working-class home? If this Act had been in existence prior to my coming to this House, my home would have received 30s. maternity benefit. I should have regarded it as a gross insult and an unwarrantable reflection on my character if Parliament had said, "We cannot trust you with 30s., and you shall not touch the benefit which comes into your home." The average workman at that time is forced to accept full responsibility for all home affairs. Every working man who has been through the experience knows that not only has he to have a Land in attending to the woman but he has to take charge of all the home affairs, and those who meddle with this matter do so without any knowledge of the actual circumstances of working-class home life. The hon. Gentleman very soon perceived that it was impossible to defend a proposal which brought in an outside woman, whilst at the same time excluding the husband. It was then proposed to substitute the word "person" for "woman." This did not remove the objection of certain of my colleagues on the Committee or of myself. We altogether object to third parties being brought into this matter at all. We object to persons being nominated for the purpose of receiving this benefit. One can quite see that some women would be subjected to extraordinary temptation if this principle of nomination were established. Certain people might approach her prior to maternity and offer to advance her money on the condition that she made a nomination in their favour. It was very soon apparent to most members of the Committee that the principle of nomination might open up possibilities of much graver abuses than those which have yet been proved under the administration of this Act.

4.0 p.m.

That is where we stand at the moment. The real point is whether persons shall be nominated for the receipt of this benefit or not. Various other proposals are being made to the effect that the wife should nominate some relative to receive the benefit on her behalf. It was pointed out by an hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cassel) that it was impossible in law to prove who is a relative and who is not. I am anxious to know whether it would be proposed to incorporate in this Bill the Prayer Book table of consanguinity. There again we have proved that there are insuperable difficulties in determining who is and who is not a relative of the woman entitled to this benefit. Furthermore, you are increasing the administrative difficulties of the various societies who have to administer this benefit. Has the sick visitor or the secretary, as the case may be, to inquire whether the person nominated is a relative, and has he, after the relative has been nominated, to inquire whether the person claiming the benefit is really the person whose name appears on the nomination paper? I respectfully submit that once we enter as between the man and the woman in this case we open such grave difficulties, administrative and otherwise, as to prove the utter impracticability of the proposal as it now stands in the Bill, and also the extreme desirability of accepting my Amendment. After all, the responsibility of providing for a woman must always rest with her husband. You propose, under the original Act, that this obligation shall be pressed upon him, but, if you in any way enact against the husband and say that he has no right even to touch this 30s., you must necessarily be weakening that claim which rests upon him. I have always understood that it is desirable, at any rate in this country, that we should recognise man and wife as being one in joint co-operation. My hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), in the course of the Debate, introduced the Question of sick pay administration, and I should like to relate what actually happens in friendly society experience in respect of sick pay. I never drew sick pay but once in all my life from any of the friendly societies of which I am a member. In that case I was unable to draw the benefit myself. It was quite impossible for me to rise from my bed and sign a receipt for the money. But my wife drew the money on my behalf, she gave a receipt for what she received, and I think that you are bound to admit that that operation will follow in this case. When the woman herself is unable to sign, her husband must have the right to sign, both in the interests of the efficient administration of the society's affairs and because it is a matter of justice. This Amendment which I am proposing is strictly in accord with the present practice of friendly societies in the administration of other benefits.

It is hardly necessary for me to point out that there is a great deal of consternation existent amongst friendly societies, and that there is a very insistent demand that the Amendment I am proposing should be accepted by the House. I am quite aware, on the other hand, that there is also an agitation against any alteration being made in the Bill as it came from upstairs, and, therefore, I am not going to place too much stress upon that portion of my argument. Still, I wish to emphasise the fact that you have a demand backed by the experience of societies which are administering benefits of a very similar character, and it is backed by them because they can see that great administrative troubles may arise under the Clause as it stands; they, therefore, express preference for the words which I am seeking to get incorporated in the Act. After all, their opinion is worth something from the administrative point of view. It has been suggested that I am seeking, by certain words in my Amendment, to undermine the statutory declaration of the first part of the Clause. But I stated upstairs that I have certainly no desire and no intention to undermine those words—to undermine the declarations that the benefit shall be the mother's benefit.


You voted against it.


My hon. Friend has had some experience of the extreme difficulty of taking a straight vote on a question of this nature. I spoke against cer- tain provisions in the Clause, but I have never questioned the declaration, and it will still stand as far as my Amendment is concerned. I am, however, given to understand that the concluding words of my Amendment—the words "apply it for the maintenance and care of the wife and child"—are objected to in some quarters. I should be glad to hear what arguments are to be adduced against those words. My colleagues and I are not concerned simply to defend words because we have put them down, but I am going to deny that our purpose in putting these words on the Paper is, as has been stated, to get round this declaration. We are of opinion—and we are, indeed, advised—that the retention of the words is desirable in the interests of appropriate administration. For what will happen? You declare that, in those cases where the husband has to draw the money, he must pay it to the wife. That is all very well. But the wife may be totally incapable of administering or using the money for the purposes for which it is intended. I do not see why the husband should be relieved of his responsibility. I do not see why, even by implication, you should say he shall not expend this money. In my opinion he is the person who ought to have the responsibility. He is the person who ought to be allowed to carry out these things in connection with his own home. But still I am not wedded to any particular form of words or to any particular word, and if it can be proved that it is open to reasonable interpretation that the retention of these words do in any way modify the preceding portion of the Clause, then I will be prepared to listen to any argument that may be put forward, and I will also be prepared to consider any suggestions that may be made across the floor of the House.

I simply would like to add I am moving this Clause first, because I most strongly resent the implication that, because some few husbands are bad, it is competent for Parliament to legislate against all husbands. I want also to devise methods whereby the benefit goes to the purpose for which it is really intended. The Amendment I am moving has been put down in that spirit, whatever may be said to the contrary. Certain of my colleagues, as well as myself, have had actual experience in administering the affairs of friendly societies and trade unions. We know that under the Insurance Act the administration is already very complex and very difficult, and we have no desire to add to those complexities and those difficulties. In our view, if you allow either the wife or the husband to give a receipt in these circumstances, at the same time declaring that where the husband does receive the money, it is the intention of Parliament that it shall be exclusively devoted to the benefit of the woman and child at that period, I think you will have carried out the intentions of Parliament, and you will have made it possible for societies to administer this benefit efficiently and in full accord with the spirit of the Act of Parliament. It is for these reasons that I submit my Amendment to the consideration of the House.


I understand that the Resolution has been seconded and, therefore, we are discussing the question put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts). I am bound to say I shall be obliged most strenuously to disagree, not so much with the Resolution to which, however, I do object, as with the terms of the speech of the hon. Member upon this subject. There is no one who wishes to put any difficulty between man And wife in regard to the business of insurance and the administration of the maternity benefit; therefore those who are supporting the proposal already inserted, that for the future this benefit shall be considered as the benefit of the mother and not of the husband, are not actuated by that idea, neither do they believe that, in putting forward that they will do anything whatever to cause domestic disagreement between husband and wife. I, however, propose to deal with this question on a broader basis, and I would venture to suggest that this discussion should not take the line that there is a possibility of causing disagreement where disagreement does not already exist. It is a moral certainty, however you decide this, that in cases where domestic felicity already exists nothing that you do will alter that; therefore, it is not on that basis in the slightest degree that this matter should be considered. I could understand, if it were a paternity benefit, paying it to the father. If it were understood that it was a paternity benefit the man might be entitled to it. But the mere description of the benefit is, I should imagine, sufficient to indicate whose property it really is.

The supposition underlying the argument of the hon. Member for Norwich, and the arguments that were adduced in Committee, is this: that by some means the benefit in cases where the wife herself is not an insured person is more the husband's than the wife's. I have never been able to understand that argument. My hon. Friend has asked us to look for a moment at the position of affairs in the ordinary home and the domestic relations of the workers of this country. Let us place ourselves in that position for a moment or two. The home is not exclusively the property of the man, because, I take it for granted that my hon. Friend will admit that the wife who looks after the children at home, who looks after the home of the worker, and who does all the drudgery in order to keep the family in decency, is really doing her share and in most cases the lion's share of keeping the home up. Really she is earning part of the wages that the man actually receives for the work which he does. She herself is contributing to his insurance by that work even though she herself is not an insured person. I venture to say she really earns half of the money that he pays and even half of the money which the employer pays towards the insurance, and therefore it is a joint contribution, not a contribution especially from the man. Consequently this maternity benefit by right and justice of every possible kind belongs to the woman and the woman only. Though I do not understand quite the technical bearings of the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend, as to whether it belittles in any way the first proposition that this benefit really belongs to the mother and is the mother's benefit, I do understand it is a whittling away of that proposition, and for that reason I give my most certain hostility to the proposal of my hon. Friend.

I venture to say that all this quibbling that if you do this or the other you will cause contention in the homes of the working people of the country is utterly beside the mark and has no foundation in fact. The workmen of the country are not so narrow as that. I could give illustrations of how things which look unjust are carried out at the present time, where workmen, apparently receiving no personal benefit themselves, are actually prepared to contribute towards the benefit of those who are less fortunately placed than themselves. You only supply medical benefit for the men who are insured, but there are cases where the employers have arranged, if their workmen agree, to deduct twopence a week so that medical benefit can be given to the wives and families of the men employed. It became a question whether the single men should contribute. I know a case in which at least 1,000 single men are allowing the twopence a week to be deducted from their own wages in order that medical benefit may be given to the wives and families of their mates who happen to be married. You do not find this fine chopping of rights and these technical objections in the relations of the working men. If Parliament had decided at the outset that maternity benefit was intended to be paid to the wife, and that no one but she had a right to give even a receipt for it, the workmen of the country would gladly have accepted such a proposition. I do not see any reason whatever why the Amendment should be put forward to belittle in any way the right of the woman to this benefit Which has been placed in the Bill by the Grand Committee upstairs.


I am also quite unable to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich. If there are men, as we are told, whose pride of manhood is outraged by the act that the 30s. is conveyed directly to their wives, I say those men do not deserve the encouragement of this House. It is obvious that nothing we can do will turn a bad man into a good man, or a miserable home into a happy home, but what we can do, what the Committee upstairs did, and what we hope this House will do, so far as Parliament can do it, is to lay it down that maternity benefit is the property of the mother and of no one else. Of course, we know that in ninety-nine homes out of a hundred the husband and wife will act together in perfect amity in laying out this money to the best advantage. There is only one small point in addition to what I have said. It has been brought to my notice—I have no intention of mentioning names, because it would obviously not be fair—that in two or three cases most well-meaning husbands have got hold of the maternity benefit and spent portions of it, as they thought to the best advantage, but, as their wives think, they have taken their money to a very bad market. They have bought things which were intended to be very beneficial to the wife and comforting to her, but which, in her opinion, have been useless. That has happened in two or three cases within the knowledge of people who have given me information. The State, rightly or wrongly—as we think rightly—has entered into a great scheme of compulsory insur- ance. We insist upon men insuring themselves, and women, too, for that matter. We insist upon employers paying money towards insurance, and we also provide money out of the taxpayers' pockets to add to the benefits in the time of sickness. There is nothing illegal, there is nothing foolish, and there is nothing tyrannical in saying that of the benefits that money can buy, we are entitled, on behalf of the future generations and on behalf of the women of this country, to earmark this maternity benefit as belonging to the woman and nobody else.

I really believe that my hon. Friends below the Gangway are unduly obsessed by the difficulties of this proposition. Everyone who knows them, knows that they have no hostility whatever to the working-class women of this country. I understand their argument to be that there is great difficulty in setting up machinery to deal with this question. I think that must be the gravamen of the Amendment, because I am certain they would not be very tender towards the feelings of men who are unworthy of confidence and need to be restrained by the law. We have passed laws protecting the women of every class. We have passed a law protecting people who make a marriage settlement, and it is not suggested that that is a deadly insult to the man about to be married. We have passed laws protecting married women's property, and it is not suggested that that was a deadly insult to the men of this country. I appeal to my hon. Friends below the Gangway to reconsider this question, even at this late hour, and to realise that they are doing a thing intensely resented by the women of this country, and which, I believe, will be unpopular with the men. So far as I have been able to consult the men in my own Constituency, and elsewhere they have been unanimously in favour of giving the women this maternity benefit. It is a pity to have a division of any kind on what must be a mere matter of machinery, but if the Amendment goes to a Division, I shall unhesitatingly vote against it.


I very much regret that already this Debate is turning on the question as to whether this benefit is the woman's benefit or the man's benefit. I have no hesitation in saying that I am in favour of this being the woman's benefit. That question was definitely settled upstairs. I say quite frankly that in my opinion this Amendment will not in any way reverse the decision arrived at upstairs as to whether or not it is the woman's benefit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen will be able to follow me; I am giving my own opinion. The best evidence of it is that when the proposal was made upstairs, on the first day the Committee were almost unanimous in making it the property of the woman. [An HON. MEMBER: "They were unanimous."] They were nearly unanimous.


It was carried unanimously.


The next day, when the Committee were face to face with the question of carrying out the decision, an entirely different aspect was placed on the situation. I want to approach the question purely from the standpoint of administration. How did this difficulty arise? There would have been no question raised on this Amending Bill, and there would have been nothing said as to whether or not it was the property of the woman or the man, had it not been for the fact that the insurance committees' auditors refused to accept the receipt of the woman for the payment of the 30s. The difficulty was created in this way: The majority of the approved societies were anxious, and rightly anxious, that the 30s. should reach the home as early as possible. Most of us connected with the organisations gave instructions that immediately the branch secretary or the local officer was acquainted with a confinement, he should immediately proceed to the house with a view to taking the 30s., so as to render the assistance which was necessary immediately. Everyone will agree that that was not only a necessary plan and a wise plan, but that it was the real intention in giving the benefit, because it gave to the mother and to those in charge of the home the knowledge that there was 30s. there to meet the additional expense of the particular occasion. What really happens is that there are hundreds of cases where the husband is away at work, sometimes in another town, and on some occasions actually at sea. The branch secretaries are faced with this difficulty: He is anxious to help the case and anxious to leave the money there, but he knows perfectly well that he is responsible to the society, and that the Government auditors will not accept any other receipt. The result is that we have scores of occasions where a real injustice is done, not because the man is callous or indifferent, but because he himself is liable to be surcharged with the 30s. That is how the difficulty arises. This House ought to meet that difficulty. The benefit is made the property of the woman. If the woman's receipt is necessary, no one in this House will suggest that the insurance agent or local secretary is to go into the bedroom on the first day of the confinement. That is absolutely impossible, and I need not debate it. If the woman is allowed to nominate, the very woman who is brought into the working-class home on such an occasion—I say this with all seriousness, because I know—is the kind of woman the majority of men have invariably to clear out of the house as soon as possible. I am not talking of the midwife, but of the woman who generally comes in to take charge of the home. Is that the woman to whom the 30s. is to be given? Is that how the maternity benefit is to be administered?


made an observation which was inaudible.


You will be able to follow me. I am speaking of the actual difficulties from actual knowledge. I am asking the House not to go off on the track of woman versus man, but to apply themselves to a real solution of the difficulty. What I have said answers the case so far as the Amendment is concerned. The next point is the case of the man who may be away. If the Insurance Commissioners had originally decided that the receipt of the woman or the man would be acceptable to them, there would be no difficulty. No Act of Parliament can stop the abuses which have come to light of the husband spending the 30s. No Act of Parliament is going to stop the husband doing that in future, because that is the class of man who, deprived of the 30s., will stop it out of his wages the following Saturday, because he knows his wife has received 30s. Do not let us blind ourselves to that fact. We cannot deal here with these abuses, because the woman who is troubled with a husband of that description unfortunately is more in the power of that man than any other woman, and that is the real difficulty of the situation. Therefore, viewing the circumstances purely from the standpoint of the friendly societies, the trade unions and all the other approved societies which have to administer the Act, you have laid it down, and I hope it will not be gone back upon, that it is the property of the woman. Of course the woman contributes equally with the man to this, and, of course, she ought to have the benefit, but that is not the point in question. The real point is that by this Amendment you have made it the property of the woman, and you simply now say that the receipt of man or woman shall be acceptable to the friendly societies. On the other hand, if it is abused by either the man or the woman, you can have the power to deal with it in another way. You cannot deal with these abuses in the direction indicated by legislation, and I ask the House not to go back on the question that it is the woman's benefit, and not to have an unnecessary Debate as to that aspect of the question; but if the suggestion that we make is not acceptable to the House bring forward some proposal which will meet the difficulty. But do not shirk the responsibility, because there is no Member of this House who can speak with a knowledge of the administration of the Act, and no Member can quote any approved society of any magnitude which does not support our proposal. There is no Member who can claim to speak with any authority of those administering the Act who does not agree that if you leave the position as it is now, it is impossible to carry it out, and if we recognise that fact I have no hesitation in saying that we ought to find a solution, if not in these words, in similar words, which will enable the approved societies to have some control, and to have the necessary receipt to do in the future as they have been anxious to do in the past, and pay the 30s. immediately in order to relieve the woman's anxiety.


I am sorry I am unable to agree with the hon. Member in the conclusion at which he has arrived, but I agree most fully with him that in this discussion we are all agreed that the benefit belongs to the woman. I did not understand the hon. Member (Mr. G. Roberts) to dispute that, and indeed he proposes by his Amendment to leave in the words "maternity benefit shall in every case be the mother's benefit." The hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) did not at all indicate what is the practical reason why he regards that as a desirable course. Surely he must really regard it as a desirable course, in spite of his general contempt for the power of legislation, in which I largely agree with him, because he thinks it, desirable that the benefits should be legally under the control of the woman. I think we are therefore all agreed that the maternity benefit should belong to her, and we are equally agreed that in the vast majority of cases husband and wife get on very well together, and that it does not really matter a bit, whether you call it the woman's or the man's benefit. It will be applied by the man or woman to the purpose for which it is obviously desired. I wish to disabuse the mind of the hon. Member (Mr. G. Roberts). No one proposes to make an attack on the moral character of the married working men of this country. No such thing is dreamed of by any Member of the House. The hon. Member (Mr. Thomas) appears to think that the only grievance we have to deal with is that there is a difficulty in the way of approved societies paying over this benefit as quickly as it ought to be paid. I really do not think that is the point. That may be the point which ought to be dealt with, but it is not the point on which the Amendment was moved upstairs, nor is it the real point which has been brought by a large number of people outside. The point is really exactly that which the hon. Member says we cannot deal with at all. It is that in a certain number—I am quite ready to believe a very small proportion—of the cases, taking them all together, this benefit is misapplied. May I read what the medical officer of health for Glasgow says on the subject:— Abuse of the benefit money is unhappily very common. Cases are numerous in which the husband receives the entire 30s. and spends it in liquor…. It is obvious from the above statement that in many cases abuse of the money would be prevented by the direct payment of the benefit to the wife. I quite agree that that may be a little overstated. I am not sufficiently familiar with Glasgow to know whether it is, but it is a very serious grievance if it exists in only a comparatively small number of cases. I believe everyone is anxious to remedy that grievance in spite of the hon. Member's (Mr. Thomas) rather despairing view that we cannot do anything, and I believe the hon. Member (Mr. G. Roberts) is anxious to remedy this. I understood him to say so. But his Amendment will absolutely destroy the practical value of the first words of the Clause, because he provides that the husband's receipt is to be a sufficient discharge. That really puts the whole thing back again. The effect of the wording of this Clause is really to render the whole thing absolutely nugatory. I am sure that will not do, and I cannot help thinking that the best course is to leave the Clause as it stands. We are told there may be administrative diffi- culties. The Clause as it stands provides that the payment shall be made to the' mother. I do not know what the legal advisers of the Government say, but I should have thought that a provision that payment should be made to the mother would mean what it would in any other case, namely, that as long as a person is authorised, whether the husband or anyone else, to receive the money, payment to the authorised person was payment to the mother. If that applies, and I can see no reason why it should not, payment to the mother will be satisfied as long as the payment is made to someone who is authorised by the mother to receive it. Surely, that is a reasonable thing. It gives her a real control of the matter, and that is the way in which it should be dealt with. I adduce this as we are dealing with it for the moment from an administrative point of view. I doubt very much whether the Amendment as drafted would be a very workable Amendment from a purely administrative point of view. It provides that you must necessarily produce a receipt, either from the wife or from the husband. Take the case which the hon. Member put of the husband being away and the wife not being well enough to give a receipt. It would still be impossible to pay the money out. It seems to me much better to say that if the payment is to be made to the mother let the approved society make its own machinery by its own regulations as to how and on what evidence the payment is going to the mother, and then you get rid of all difficulties. If you put in these precise words it seems to me that you run a great danger of placing difficulties in the way of the administration of the Act. I hope very much that the House will reject the Amendment. There are administrative difficulties about the Bill as it stands without the Amendment. I cannot think they are insurmountable, indeed they have to be surmounted in the case of the unmarried mother at present, and therefore I have no doubt they can be surmounted in other cases, and after all we have had a very striking testimony in the almost unanimity of all the women who are entitled to speak on the subject that they desire that the Bill should be left as it is. It is not a question of suffragists, or anti-suffragists, or of rich or poor. They all agree that since this House in its wisdom has declined to give them political power it ought to attend very carefully to the desires expressed with so much authority.


I have an Amendment on the Paper, but it is not in order until this Amendment is accepted. Consequently I can only indicate that while I appeal to the House to vote for this Amendment I only do so hoping that they will afterwards pass my Amendment to leave out the words at the end of the Clause, which to my mind will utterly contradict the decision of the Committee upstairs. If they are left in. the decision of the Committee, and of the House if it affirms it, that it should be the mother's benefit, is really vitiated, because the man will spend it as he likes. He will be the sole judge as to what is for the benefit of the wife and child, and then really the whole object of the hon. Member (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson), to whom the principal credit is due for bringing this question forward, would be defeated. As one who supported him in Committee and entirely agrees with the views expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. John Ward), I could not support the Amendment if that latter Clause were left in. I am supported in that by the document which, I think, all Members have had, which came from the leading officials of the approved societies. Although many separate sections and groups of larger and smaller dimensions have sent manifestoes or requisitions, or memorials to the House, I think this, of all the communications we have received, stands alone in that it incorporates so many different bodies. The trade unionists are here, including two Members of the House, the Oddfellows and Foresters, the Hearts of Oak, and a group of other orders have all signed this. The Prudential Society have signed it by their actuary and secretary; the Associated Officers who form the National Amalgamated have signed it by their chairman and secretary; the Liverpool Victoria, the United Order of Oddfellows, and representatives of the dividing societies have all signed it. It would, perhaps, have been more convenient if those Members of the Labour party who have spoken had made some reference to this document to which their colleagues committed themselves. I had nothing to do with drawing it up, but some Members of the Labour party had, because they were in the room. I was called in when the document was almost completed, and was asked if I would take the responsibility of supporting it in the House, and I feel it my duty to do so on behalf of these signatories. My Amendment on the Paper is to make the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts) in exact accord with the decision which took place, on the invitation of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in one of the Committee Rooms of this House on Friday last. These are the people who administer the Act. I was exceedingly interested in what was said by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), and I should like to make an appeal to him. After all, we must see how the principal Act leaves the question. It undoubtedly leaves maternity benefit as the mother's benefit. The societies administering the Act have during the past months administered it more sympathetically to the woman than the Act itself authorises. In some cases they have broken the Act, and paid the money to the woman against the express wish of the husband, where they have no confidence in him. The trade unions, where men have complained to them, say, "If you press this matter further we will have to consider the propriety of retaining your membership." I mention that to show that there is no desire on the part of the approved societies to do anything but to give the utmost consideration to the woman. I want to point out that, if this Amendment is carried with the words deleted which I suggest should be deleted, there would be a great gain over the position which has existed. In the first place, we shall have decided that it is really the mother's benefit—a gain which I consider is of the utmost importance. Secondly, we say that the receipt shall come from the wife, or from the husband on her behalf. We mention the persons in the natural order. The first idea is that, if possible, the mother should give the receipt, and therefore we mention that if he gives the receipt he is only to receive the money on her behalf. I think that is all the difference in the man receiving the money on his own behalf and receiving the money to hand it to her. We say specifically that where the money is paid to the husband he shall give it to the wife.

If the Clause ends there, I think we shall have taken an immense stride forward from present conditions. Then when the next amending Bill comes to be considered, if any cases have been found where the woman has not actually got control of the money to be spent at her direction, then it means that the decision of this House is being defied and vitiated. I would appeal to those who might otherwise be inclined to vote against this Amendment rather to recognise that we may pass the Amendment with the final words deleted and still make a very great advance on the present position. I would like to say quite frankly that the societies in approving of all this have, in my opinion, put themselves in accord with the Grand Committee upstairs, and I trust that this House will support the Committee. What do the great approved societies say? They say:— We welcome anp cordially approve of the provision providing that this benefit should be the absolute property of the mother, and we are desirous that the payment of the same should he made to her in full and as speedily as possible. I would say to the House that the great approved societies in putting down in black and white that definite pledge show that they are anxious to carry out the proposal of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson). If they will administer it in that spirit, I think we might meet them on the actual question of machinery. The Members of this House do not want, when they have the goodwill of these societies, to ask them to attempt the impossible. Nor should they be asked to determine such internal questions as who is master of the house or whether it is partnership or not. Surely all that the societies can be asked to do is to take the 30s. to the mother if she is in a condition to take it and get her receipt, and, if the state of her health does not admit of that, to give the money to the husband, make him the trustee, and say, "This is her money. You can only sign this receipt on her behalf." I submit that we cannot follow that working man from the living room up into the bedroom, and I ask the House not to request the approved societies to go further. At any rate, this is a great gain on last year, and it seems to me a sensible proposal that, whenever the money is paid into the husband's hands, he should know that it is his wife's property. Then the insurance part of the problem is satisfied. If, after all, there should prove to be some difficulties, time can only show them, and next year we might consider the carrying of the Amendment further.


I should like to reinforce nine-tenths of the speech of my Hon. Friend (Mr. Booth), and, if I disagree with him in the other tenth, I shall try to explain to the House the grounds of my disagreement. There is one thing perfectly evident, in spite of the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. J. Ward), that that kind of speech is not going to solve this problem. It is not a question of sentiment or of generosity. It is not even, if I may say so, a question of property, because maternity benefit is a trust fund, and ought to be administered as a trust fund. It does not belong to the husband; it does not belong to the wife, and it ought not to belong to either, because, if it does belong to the husband, then he is entitled to misapply it if it is his property, and if it is the property of the wife, she is entitled to misapply it, and nobody has any business to quarrel with her. That is not the intention of the money at all. That is not why maternity benefit is being given. This sum of 30s. is given for a certain object either to the wife or to the husband, or to both together—it does not matter for the moment to whom. This sum of money is given by the approved societies, or through the operation of the Insurance Act, for the purpose of being spent upon a certain object. That object is to bring the mother round, to make her strong and well as quickly as possible, and to give the newly born child a fair chance at the beginning of life. If the father misapplies that money under the Act as it is now administered, he is a brute, and he ought to be punished in every way possible. If the mother misapplies it, she is equally wrong, equally culpable, and ought equally to be visited with such censure as can be visited upon her.

Therefore, when we talk about property, we are talking loosely, and we are using words which really do not apply under the circumstances. Property it may be, but it is a very limited kind of property, and I prefer the expression, which I have already used, that maternity benefit is a trust fund. Under the principal Act that trust fund can only be paid to the husband. That is wrong, and everybody admits it. We approach this problem, first of all, from the point of view of administration, and the first form of our Amendment was that the receipt of the mother would be equally valid with the receipt of the father. The principal Act gives a society power to administer this money either in cash or in kind. Do not let the House forget that. An approved society, if it likes, can say that this money shall not be paid either to the husband or to the wife, but may be administered otherwise than in cash. But if it is given in cash, the husband's receipt alone is valid so far as the Insurance Act is concerned. Some criticism has been made upon my hon. Friends and myself on the assumption that we thought that any variation of payment to the husband would be an insult. As a matter of fact, the trade unions, which are approved societies themselves, have in many cases from the first been flying in the teeth of the law, so to speak, and accepting the receipt of the mothers when they decline to pay this money to the fathers. We simply looked at it from the purely administrative point of view, and took into account the actual experience of the societies. Our first idea did not go any further than to legalise the administration as well as the practice of the societies, of which my hon. Friend the Member for the Gorton Division (Mr. Hodge) is a leading official. His society issued orders to the branches that if it was found that there was reason why the husband should not get the money, the husband was not to get it, and that it ought to be paid to the wife. That practice is enough to justify us in standing up here without fear of the accusation which is thrown against us that we are acting on some narrow ground. I think the Noble Lord was wrong when he said that the Amendment put in by the Committee upstairs has declared that maternity benefit is the property of the wife.


indicated dissent.

5.0 p.m.


The whole of my case rests on that point. The Clause does not state that maternity benefit is the property of the mother. As the principal Act stands, if the benefit is paid in cash, must be given to the husband, but it may be administered otherwise. According to the Amended Bill, which we are now considering, the money has to be paid to the wife and to her only. What we want to bring in is that the money shall be paid on the receipt of the wife or of the husband. That is a very important administrative difference. The Noble Lord does not agree with receipts. He says, "Why receipts?" I will tell him. If this House would visualise the conditions under which that money, as a rule, reaches the possession of the wife—may I say parenthetically that I am only dealing with bad cases, and not with the ninety-nine good cases in a hundred? —if this House would visualise the conditions which exist in the room when this money reaches the place, assuming that it reaches immediately or very soon after the birth, it will see that a monstrous injustice is far more likely to be done than otherwise unless the society has got some definite proof that the demand for payment has come directly from the mother, and that the payment when made is going to go directly to the mother. The Noble Lord knows what the terrible intervention of the third person means under such circumstances—the terrible intervention of neigh-bours, and so on. If this is a trust fund we must be particularly careful in dealing with bad cases, even putting impediments in the way if necessary, in order to make sure that the money is going to go into the hands of the person who is going to administer it in trust for the mother and the child, or into the hands of the mother, who will spend it on her own behalf. The Married Woman's Property Act has nothing whatever to do with this case. No talk about a married woman's property or the separate property of married women has the least bearing upon the problem which this House has got to face. It is this, How are the obligations which are attached to every 1s. of this 30s. going to be carried out by the person who spends the money? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, that given a bad husband and a blackguardly husband who is capable of some of the things of which we have been hearing, neither this House nor any other House is going to settle that. He is going to be a disgrace and he has got to be wiped out by some other means, but this House must honestly admit to itself that there is also the bad wife of the good husband. We cannot deny it. It is very sad, but there it is, and as business men trying to face a real problem we must face it honestly to ourselves. If this money is paid over to the bad mother, then you get on her side a duplication of every abuse that has been published as an abuse which has attended the expenditure of this money when it found its way first of all into the hands of the husband.

We propose to give the societies discriminating power, and I believe that in the long run we are going to do more of that than we have done. I know the argument used against us, and admit its strength to the full, that if the societies begin to discriminate they discriminate against a man and brand a man. My reply is that if a society discriminates against a man in 9,999 out of every 10,000 cases he ought to be discriminated against, and I, for one, would be only too glad if he was discriminated against and branded as the sort of person that undoubtedly he would be in those circumstances. We ought to be courageous as well as sympathetic in this matter, and we believe that the society and its responsible officers should have some discriminating powers. That is in the Act now and, therefore, it does not require to be put into this Amendment. Therefore we say we must insist upon the wife's receipt, though in certain circumstances I quite see that it is going to be rather difficult to get it, but it is the one safeguard which we have got in a large number of bad cases that it will not be intercepted on the way to the mother. If anyone can give us a better suggestion we shall be delighted to accept it. The final point is this: I do not know whether I am specially old-fashioned, but I still believe that the man and the wife should co-operate together in the expenditure of the common fund. It is a very miserable family that cannot have a common fund. So what would happen if these last words of ours were left out? The man can go to the society and state, "I will draw the money for my wife," and he gets it. He can say to the society, "I would advise you not to pay it to my wife because she cannot administer it," but he cannot say to the society, "Please give it to me and I will administer it for her." He, then, can only say to the society, "You have got to administer it yourself on her behalf." Surely that is very improper! That is the unfortunate position which will hit the good families and the people living in good relationships. But I hope that the House will vote for the Amendment, and then it can consider the matter further. I am perfectly willing to take the decision of the House upon the Amendment which my hon. Friend has got down to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich, but the House must do something to supplement the Clause which is now in being. It must do something to make machinery for carrying out the intentions of the Clause. When that is done, as I hope the House will do, by voting for my hon. Friend's Amendment, then the House can say whether it is going to leave in the final words or not.


I hope very much that the House will not accept the Amendment moved by the hon. Mem- ber for Norwich. The hon. Member made, I suppose, the best case that could be made for an extremely weak cause, and I do not feel that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pontefract really improves what I look upon as an entire going back upon the principle that we decided upon upstairs. I hope that the Secretary to the Treasury is not going to make this a party question, and is not going to put on the Government Whips when it comes to a Division. Upstairs in Committee he made it. quite plain that it was not going to be treated as a party question, and if the Government Whips are put on down here that would be going back on a distinct pledge that he gave us upstairs in Committee. The House has not very often an opportunity of deciding upon a non-party issue and I feel that in a case of this kind no Cabinet pressure whatsoever should be brought to bear upon the decision of the House. It is essentially a question for the decision of the House, and it ought not to be made a question of political expediency. I feel strongly that if women had votes to-day there would be absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to which way the decision upon this question would go. If women had votes I believe that the 30s. would he absolutely safe in their pockets in every single case. I would like to appeal especially to the anti-suffragists in this House.

As long as men deny the vote to women—and it may be that in doing so they are quite right—they ought to look upon themselves, especially as the trustees in this House of women's interests, and they ought to go out of their way to behave generously whenever a question of this sort comes up. I believe that if we do neglect these rights of the women we shall be doing an immense amount to add to the very long list of supporters of women suffrage all over the country. The hon. Member for Derby and the hon. Member for Leicester referred to certain administrative difficulties that might occur in reading the Clause in the Amending Bill. The hon. Member for Leicester says that we have not declared it is the women's property. That may be perfectly true, but we have declared that it is the woman's benefit, and it is the woman's legal benefit. I do not think that there is the slightest controversy in any part of the House in regard to that. Therefore, it is our duty to see that the whole of the legal benefit is expended on her behalf for the benefit of herself and the child.

I do not see that there are going to be any administrative difficulties at all. Post office orders can be perfectly easily sent through the post, or the approved societies can find out some cheap means of seeing that this benefit gets into the hands of the mother. At present everybody knows that sick pay is sent through the post through the instrumentality of post office orders. More than that, in the case of unmarried women who are insured, post office orders are sent through the post to those unmarried women in respect of maternity benefit, and no administrative difficulty has been found so far as I am aware in getting the maternity benefit into the hands of insured unmarried women. If it can be done in their case I do not see that there need be any administrative difficulties in getting the maternity benefit into the hands of insured married women. The midwife or the doctor can perfectly easily give a certificate of the birth even in the case of the insured married women. The difficulty has already been got over. What happens in the case of a man at sea who is insured and married? On the birth of a child the maternity benefit is now sent to the wife of an insured man and no administrative difficulties have been discovered in this case. I would like to point out that you are really differentiating, I think very unfairly, as between the married and the unmarried insured woman. Under the principal Act, as everybody knows, if a woman is insured and married to an insured man the insured woman does not get any maternity benefit at all. The maternity benefit is paid to the husband who is insured. But if a woman is unmarried and insured she gets her own maternity benefit to deal with as she likes. That is under the present system an unmarried insured woman would be able to deal with her maternity benefit and you deny this to the insured married woman. I agree with the hon. Member for Stoke that it is perfectly fallacious to suppose that it is merely the husband who contributes towards the maternity benefit. The woman's work at home continually enables the man to earn his wages outside, and in hundreds of cases it is the woman's privation, much more than the husband's, or the children's privation, that results from the deduction of the contribution, very often from a very low wage.

I am aware that a great deal of pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by trade unions and ap- proved societies, but I do not think that my Noble Friend mentioned this, that a unanimous resolution has been passed, I think yesterday, at the English speaking Conference on Infant Mortality, expressing the hope that the Clause in the Amending Bill would be passed in its unaltered form. I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he gets up to reply will make it quite clear that this is not a party question. I do not know from the smile on his face whether he is or is not going to make it a party question. I do not want to use language which is too strong, but if, after his pledge upstairs that he would leave it to the sound common sense of the Committee and not make it a party question, he now on the floor of this House is going to do so and put on the Government Whips, I say it will be a scandalous breach of the pledge which he gave. I only hope that he is not going to do it.


I propose to reply to the arguments which have been addressed to the House now, as we have further and important work to do this afternoon. The hon. Gentleman seemed to attack me with some violence, and suggested that I had made a certain pledge. I made no pledge upstairs in connection with what the action of the Government might be on Report. To relieve the hon. Gentleman's mind, however, I may state that I have no intention of exercising any kind of pressure in regard to this subject, and, indeed, the only thing I can do will be to adopt the same attitude that I adopted upstairs. The hon. Member may be interested to know what actually did happen upstairs. All four Members who were leading the four parties in the Committee voted one way—they all voted in the minority, with a result, I am sure, very much to the satisfaction of the Noble Lord.


Who were those leaders? I do not know.


Quite apart from this question, during the whole of this Bill, which I regard now as a Bill which has been made by all parties uniting together, I always realise that when anything in connection with women enters into our controversies, party divisions become absolutely submerged in other divisions, and friend carries on a violent warfare against friend. What I have to submit now is really the result of a promise that I made to the Committee to try and ascertain how far these powers, which I think were almost unanimously desired by the Committee, could be translated into practical action—how far administrative means require amendment or alteration. I think everyone in the Committee recognised that it was impossible to leave the Clause as it was left in Committee; in fact, we had a very long debate afterwards about what exact administrative suggestions could be introduced, and, finally, the whole Committee agreed to leave it to me to consult the members of the approved societies, who have actual experience of this administrative work, and ascertain what administrative amendment they thought was needed. I immediately proceeded to effect such a consultation. I had a conference, I suppose the most representative conference that ever could be got together, of all approved societies— friendly societies, trading, collecting, industrial, and other societies. They realised, and I am quite clear that none of them had any objection, that a very definite change has been made by the action of the Committee, and that henceforth maternity benefit was the woman's benefit, the benefit of the wife of the person insured in their societies. There, I may say, one of those administrative difficulties arises, because this benefit has got somehow to be administered for the benefit of a person who is not actually a member of the society. That makes it much more difficult than administration in the case of an unmarried woman where the woman is a member of the society.

After a very long consultation, and a good many suggestions made, the members of the approved societies agreed that they could see no other or better way to meet this difficulty than the suggestion which they circulated to Members of this House. I need hardly say that hon. Gentlemen were perfectly right in saying that no pressure was to be put on the societies in this matter, and no pressure was put by myself in this matter, except to find out how it would actually work in practice. In regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich, the last words of it, I believe, are the words most objected to by those who wish it to come into force. Their difficulty is this: The wife's receipt can be accepted, and in certain cases it is being accepted to-day, although I believe it is doubtful whether it is legal and whether it is a full discharge to the the society, or whether, as a matter of fact, the husband on coming back could not make a further demand. They say that they cannot accept prac- tical responsibility in respect of the authorisation or nomination of a third person to give receipts in full discharge of the payment. The difficulty would be exceedingly great to prove in each case that there was a legal authorisation. That is the point which the Noble Lord made, and. it is the point I put to them in discussing the difficulty. As the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said, this concerns to a very large extent humble houses. It is of very great importance that the money should be paid at once; in fact, I think one big society prides itself on the fact that it pays the money on the same day on which the child is born. They object to the principle of nomination, and I think the whole House, on the merits, objects to the principle of the nomination of a third person. It is perfectly right that the wife should be able to give her discharge for the money. I think it is right that the husband should be able to give the discharge. I believe that once you started the principle of nomination you would get very profound difficulties in connection with the benefit in the poorer districts, and I speak as one who lived ten years in the poorer districts. In any case, the societies agreed that, from the administrative point of view, they must ask those who wish to hear their views on the subject, that the husband's receipt should be valid. They say if that is not the case, either there will have to be a very elaborate inquiry in each case, with very considerable delay, or some system would have to be devised which they themselves were unable to devise.

I agree that when you come to the last words of the Amendment, you come to a controversial point. The words are, "apply it for the maintenance and care of the wife and child." I recognise the strength of the case as put by the hon. Member for Leicester, and I have some sympathy for it indeed, I voted for it in the Committee stage, because if there is reason to believe that the wife herself is not going to use the maternity benefit and spend it on the wife and child—I know of some cases where that has been demonstrated—I think the husband ought to be in a position to apply it to the maintenance and care of the wife and child. But my position is not to argue that point; my position is merely to inform the House of what occurred after I had promised to call attention to the question of administration. What I should like would be a straight vote, not on that last passage, but on the statement omitting that last sentence, which says that the benefit shall be payable in respect of the husband's insurance, that the wife's receipt shall be valid, and that the husband's receipt on her behalf shall be valid; but that where the benefit is paid to the husband he shall pay it to the wife. There are difficulties in that point, but the approved societies, when I approached them on the subject, said they thought that those difficulties could be overcome. They said that if the Committee would be willing to receive that as a condition, and if the House were willing to receive that as practical administration carrying out the Resolution that this benefit shall be the wife's benefit, they believe that the administrative difficulties can be overcome. I do not believe that the general sense of the House, as far as I can judge at present, is to include the last sentence. If in any way we can get that last sentence removed and rest purely on the administrative part which is left, I honestly believe that it will be the best way and the only practical way of carrying out the intention.


I should like to endorse the appeal made to the Secretary to the Treasury to leave this Amendment to us to see whether we cannot get rid of these last words, which, I believe, is the feeling of the majority of the Committee. I think that the Member for Salisbury ought to be congratulated on having brought this matter before the House. He has done, I think, a real service in getting inserted in the Act of Parliament that this benefit is the woman's benefit, and that whoever receives it, and however it comes to her, it is her benefit, and is to be used for her in its entirety. That having been done and accepted by everybody as a desirable thing, the difficulties immediately begin. In Committee we spent some two hours or more trying to devise a form which would carry out the declarations which the Committee had then agreed upon, and here, to-day, we have been discussing them for a couple of hours and trying to agree upon them. I am not going to argue the matter at all, but I will give the reason why I intend to support the Amendment now before the House, especially if the words at the end are cut out. We have now got the valuable declaration that it is the woman's benefit, and we have got to provide that it can be paid to the woman, whose receipt can be accepted. We know that at the moment she might be ill and troubled, and unable, personally, to receive the benefit and apply it to her own need, and to give the receipt for it; so that we have, then, either got to postpone the payment until she is well enough to receive it, or we have got to provide someone else who can receive it and siga a receipt for it on her behalf. We have provided that the husband shall be at liberty to receive it and give a receipt on her behalf, but if he does receive it he has got to pay it over to her. No person is more naturally indicated than the husband to receive the money for the wife when she is in that condition. I think there is no doubt the husband is the natural person, and we need not in that case go beyond him. But we must go as far as the line that the husband can give a receipt, unless we are prepared to say that the payment of the benefit should be postponed for one week or two weeks or, perhaps, three weeks


Does that mean that the husband is to be authorised by the wife to receive it?


No. I will meet that point, which we discussed considerably upstairs. The Noble Lord wants to know whether the husband ought to be authorised ad hoc to receive the benefit. I say, No. Let us authorise by the Act, because in 999 cases out of 1,000 you would only be complicating the administration and causing unnecessary documents to be signed in order to protect one case out of 1,000, and that one case would be protected by the authority of the Act. If the husband is of such character that he is going to rob his wife, under those circumstances he will have no difficulty in forcing her to sign any authority or receipt that is necessary in order to enable that condition to be complied with. After all, we, or most of us, while entitled to exercise our judgment, are bound to listen to the representations which are made to us by those who are practically occupied in the administration of the various societies. Here we have an absolutely unique recommendation on the part of the trade unions, the old friendly societies, the newer form of approved societies, the Prudential and other industrial assurance companies, the dividing societies, and, indeed, we have got a recommendation from societies representing something like three-fourths, or probably more, of the insured persons. They have got to carry out the administration. This is a difficulty not of principle, because we are all agreed on the principle, and I do not think the House can do better than listen to the recommendations that have been given.


In deference to the suggestion that has been made, I would like to ask whether I would be permitted to withdraw the Amendment in its present form and move it as far as the word "wife," and then leave it for my colleagues and myself to decide whether we should like to move the other words as an addition in the event of the first portion being carried?


If the Amendment as proposed is now withdrawn the hon. Member can move it again in the form he has suggested down to and including the word "wife." If he is successful in displacing the words in the Bill and the Amendment which he is moving becomes the substantive Motion, then it is open to himself or any other hon. Member to move additions to those words.


On the point of Order. I submit it is really quite unnecessary for the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment, because the Question you, Sir, will put is, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill." If that is taken, then the question of what words should be there inserted could be considered.


I rather think there are some Members of the House who would be willing to vote for the Amendment down to the word "wife," but would not be willing to vote for the additional words.


That is the reason the hon. Member asks leave to withdraw the Amendment.


I handed in an Amendment which comes in after the word "receipt" in the proposed Amendment, and I suppose that Amendment will not fall through?


The words suggested could be moved when the Amendment becomes the substantive Motion. The only object of the hon. Member in withdrawing is to move the Amendment down to the word "wife."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "and paragraph (e) of Sub-section 1 of Section 8 of the principal Act, shall be altered accordingly by the insertion of the words `to the mother of the child' after the first word 'payment' in that paragraph," and to insert instead thereof the words "but where the benefit is payable in respect of the husband's insurance, the wife's receipt or his receipt on her behalf shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or committee, and, where the benefit is paid to the husband he shall pay it to the wife."


Is my Amendment in order now?


That Amendment cannot be taken unless the Amendment proposed becomes the substantive Motion.


I am very reluctant to give a silent vote on this question, because I took a line which differed from the views expressed by a good many of my Friends in the Committee. I want to say at once that the views I expressed will, I am afraid, differ from the views of some of my hon. Friends behind me, and I want it to be quite clear that I am speaking for myself alone, and that I am not attempting to influence their views beyond such influence as I may be able to bring upon them by argument. I am not going to cover all the ground, and desire shortly to say why it is I am going to support the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite. We are discussing maternity benefit now, because there has been abuse or misuse of it in the past few months. We are endeavouring to prevent misuse of it in the future, and that is the reason why the House is engaged upon the subject this afternoon. I think if we are going to do what we can to prevent misuse by the husband we cannot leave out of account the prospective misuse of it by the wife. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke words of common sense and spoke from a knowledge of what actually happens, a knowledge shared by many other hon. Members, when he said the problem is not confined to the bad husband, but that we have got to deal with the problem of the bad wife as well. I agree with him in looking on the money provided under maternity benefit as trust money, and taking that view I think the proposal of the hon. Member for Norwich is a sound one. I am not in the least moved by the arguments that have been addressed to us as to discrimination on the part of society officials. I believe that that discrimination where it will be exercised will be exercised wisely on the whole. I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester that where it is necessary it is desirable that it should be so. I have been told by many of those who have to administer maternity benefit under the Act that they would have given it to the wife over and over again in cases where the husband was a bad lot, if her receipt had been a valid discharge to the society. I will not labour the point any further, and I support the Amendment because I believe it to be sound, and because I believe it is desirable to give some measure of elasticity to the arrangements made by those who really know the conditions of every family with Which they are concerned, and I hope the House will support it.


I am glad that the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) has deleted the words at the end, because it makes a clear cut issue such as we already decided in Committee on the Amendment as it now stands. Having listened to all the arguments and having been impressed by each in turn, because I believe that throughout the House there has been a sincere desire that the mother and the mother alone should benefit by this sum of 30s., it seems to me finally the issue might be confined to this:—On the one hand we have administrative difficulties, and on the other side we have a few cases, very rare and exceptional cases, where the woman has a bad husband who would seize this money and use it for his own purposes. With respect to administrative difficulties I am inclined to think that they may be greatly exaggerated. I agree thoroughly with what the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) said, that this money should be regarded as a trust fund, and I think also that great importance should be attached to the further point he made that this may not be paid necessarily in money at all, but may be paid in kind. I think it might be an advantage if in all cases the benefits were paid in kind and, for instance, at the discretion of the doctor. If the money were paid in kind it would remove almost the entire difficulties which have been suggested in the course of this Debate. As to administrative difficulties, if it were once made statutory that the mother's signature, and hers alone, would be sufficient discharge, it would seem to meet all that and greatly remove the administrative difficulties due to the societies having to decide which was a good case and a bad case, and whether the husband should receive the money or not.

There was one other point which the hon. Member made which struck me very forcibly, and that was where he appealed to the House to visualise this by a concrete instance. That is the aspect which appeals to me most strongly. Suppose that it is a very exceptional case where a woman has a bad husband, and that it is only one in a thousand or a much less number, yet it is agreed on all sides that those exceptional cases do occur. I think there would be nothing more distressing to a woman in a condition of life where she most needs help and protection, and in those exceptional cases where she has long suffered every kind of abuse and tyranny, that then in the hour of her life where she is most defenceless herself and where she is most solicitous for the safety and for the life of her child, that she might then be deprived of the opportunity of restoring herself to health and succouring her child. I say that if we can visualise that one case, and know all that that means and all the cruelty and pain that would be inflicted, it would outweigh any occasional difficulties of administration. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to receiving a very representative deputation from the approved societies and others, I would suggest to him that another deputation would be needed to balance that, and that would be a deputation representing all the mothers of this country. I do not think he has received such a deputation, and I dare say they would be able to impress upon him arguments which might outweigh these mere questions of administration. This appeal which is made is a distinctly sentimental one, but, after all, it is a sentiment which Members of the House will agree strikes upon the deepest chords of human nature and brings forth impulses for the protection of the mother and those dependent upon her.


I wish to put before the House the importance of what the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has told us. What he has told us ought to influence us very greatly in coming to a decision. In fact, my own mind was not quite made up until I heard him speak; but since he has told us what is the opinion of those who have to administer this Act, I am prepared to support the hon. Member for Norwich. I do not think there is any difference of opinion on the principle. We are all agreed that this money ought to go to the mother. The question is: How can that best be secured? The mother is the proper person to receive the money. If she is in a position to do so, the money will be paid to her, and she will give the receipt. If she is not in a position to receive it, the proper person to do so is the husband, who, under the Amendment, would be under a legal obligation to pay the money over to the wife. The words are:

"His receipt on her behalf shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or committee, and, where the benefit is paid to the husband, he shall pay it to the wife."

I maintain that under those words, if he does not pay it to the wife, he will be guilty of an offence for which he can be prosecuted. I submit that by voting for the Amendment the House will best carry out their intention that the woman should receive the money.


I rise because I disagree with the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. S. Roberts). I do not think it would be the best course for this House to adopt to pass the Amendment, even in the form in which it now stands. We must not forget the speech by which the Amendment in its original form was supported. We must remember the arguments by which it was recommended to the consideration of the House. It will be remembered that the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts) repeatedly stated that the main reason why he was supporting the Amendment—he confined his observations almost entirely to the Amendment as it now stands, and had very little to say about that part which has been deleted—was that he had an abhorrence of any State interference between husband and wife. He is supporting this Amendment in order to give the husband what I might call a locus standi in the matter. It seems to me that the question can be put in a nutshell. It is whether this benefit is or is not the mother's benefit? If it is the mother's benefit, it ought to go to the mother, and there ought to be no insulting or objectionable conditions attached to it. The hon. Member says that he has an abhorrence of any interference between man and wife by the State. He belongs to the Mosaic period. I am sure he heartily approves of the last part of the tenth Commandment. He would place the man's wife in the same category as the man's ox and the man's ass. If the hon. Member had been in this House forty years ago, he would have stated as eloquently as he has done this afternoon his deep-rooted objection to any interference by law in the relations between man and wife. But the relations between man and wife do exist at present under this Bill in this connection. Those of us who are opposed to this Amendment want to place the woman in a more honour-able position with regard to the receipt of this money. The hon. Member talked about the insulting provisions that were embodied in the Bill as it now appears. Still, in the Amendment in the form in which it now stands, there is an implied insult to the wife, because if this be the woman's benefit, the woman ought to receive it, and she ought to be in a position to say who should act on her behalf.

I am no lawyer. In that I am like my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). Therefore, my opinion in law is as good as his—that is, it is worth nothing. But he gave us quite a learned dissertation upon the legal construction of the first few words of this paragraph: "Maternity benefit shall in every case be the, mother's benefit." His legal dictum is that that does not make it the legal property of the wife. May I alter the words a little? "Maternity benefit"—that is 30s.—thirty shillings— "shall in every case be the mother's thirty shillings." Suppose you put it like that. I think it is perfectly evident to the layman who knows nothing about law that that does make the maternity benefit the legal property of the woman. That being the case, I object altogether to the introduction of another party, even if that party he the husband. I think that the administrative difficulties have been altogether exaggerated. I cannot but feel a suspicion that they have been introduced so prominently for other reasons than those which have been stated. There cannot possibly be any administrative difficulty which is not being encountered at the present time and being met by the societies. We have some millions of women who are insured persons, and they fall sick. What about the administrative difficulties there? The hon. Member spoke

about the woman being confined to bed and not being in a position to give a receipt. That case happens every day, and it happens in regard to women. Women fall suddenly ill. They are not able to give receipts for the benefit, but the benefit is being paid. How is it being paid? Under regulations and arrangements which the friendly societies have made. There are a large number of married women entitled to benefit in one form or another under the present arrangement. The receipt of the husband is not taken for that. It is the wife who has to make the acknowledgment. In my own Constituency 60 per cent. of the mothers are insured persons on their own account, but I have never heard of a single case of difficulty. Therefore, I repeat that I think the administrative difficulties have been altogether exaggerated. What I would like to see done would be to leave out everything except the first few words, namely, "Maternity benefit shall in every case be the mothers's benefit," leaving to the societies full power to make what arrangements they like. While we all agree that this ought to be the benefit of the mother and the property of the mother, the full effect of that is being taken away by the words embodied in this Amendment. Therefore, I shall certainly vote against the Amendment, and I hope we shall receive a sufficient amount of support to be able to defeat. it.


May I ask the House to be quite clear as to what is the Amendment upon which they are going to vote. It is the Amendment which says:— but where the benefit is payable in respect of the husband's insurance, the wife's receipt or his receipt on her behalf shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or committee, and, where the benefit is paid to the husband, he shall pay it to the wife. It is not, as one or two Members apparently think, a later Amendment dealing with quite a different subject.

Question put, "That the words of the Bill to the word 'after' ['to the mother of the child after'] stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 177; Noes, 186.

Division No. 262.] AYES. [5.58 p.m.
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Banbury, Sir Frederick George
Baird, John Lawrence Baldwin, Stanley Baring, Major Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Hills, John Waller O'Doherty, Philip
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Hoare, S. J. G. Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Beale, Sir William Phipson Hogg, David C. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Beck, Arthur Cecil Hogge, James Myles Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Bentham, G. J. Holmes, Daniel Turner Parkes, Ebenezer
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Bird, Alfred Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)
Boland, John Pius Horner, Andrew Long Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid) Houston, Robert Paterson Pollock, Ernest Murray
Boyton, James Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Bridgeman, William Clive Hughes, Spencer Leigh Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Brocklehurst, William B. Hunt, Rowland Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Bryce, J. Annan Ingleby, Holcombe Primrose, Hon. Neil James
Bull, Sir William James John, Edward Thomas Pringle, William M. R.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Quilter, Sir William Eley C.
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Radford, G. H.
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Raphael, Sir Herbert H.
Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Jowett, Frederick William Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Chancellor, Henry George Larmor, Sir J. Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Ronaldshay, Earl of
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th) Rowntree, Arnold
Cowan, W. H. Leach, Charles Salter, Arthur Clavell
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Levy, Sir Maurice Scott, A MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Craik, Sir Henry Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Shortt, Edward
De Forest, Baron Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Snowden, Philip
Denison-Pender, J. C. Locker-Lampson. O. (Ramsey) Stewart, Gersham
Dickinson, W. H. Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee Talbot, Lord Edmund
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. Lyell, Charles Henry Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Doris, William Lynch, A. A. Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Duke, Henry Edward Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Tennant, Harold John
Duncannon, Viscount Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)
Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Macpherson, James Ian Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Essex, Sir Richard Walter MacVeagh, Jeremiah Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles M'Curdy, C. A. Thorne, William (West Ham)
Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Toulmin, Sir George
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Magnus, Sir Philip Tryon, Captain George Clement
Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Manfield, Harry Wadsworth, John
Gibbs, G. A. Marks, Sir George Croydon Walrond, Hon. Lionel
Gladstone, W. G. C. Marshall, Arthur Harold Waring, Walter
Glazebrook, Captain Philip K. Middlebrook, William Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Money, L. G. Chiozza White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Goulding, Edward Alfred Morgan, George Hay White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Morrell, Philip Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honlton) Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Gulland, John W. Mount, William Arthur Wilson, J. (Durham, Mid)
Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Wolmer, Viscount
Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) Murphy, Martin J. Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Neilson, Francis Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Neville, Reginald J. N. Yate, Colonel C. E.
Harris, Henry Percy Newdegate, F. A.
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Newman, John R. P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. J. Ward and Lord Robert Cecil.
Hemmerde, Edward George Norton, Captain Cecil W.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Burke, E. Haviland- Devlin, Joseph
Acland, Francis Dyke Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Dillon, John
Addison, Dr. Christopher Byles, Sir William Pollard Donelan, Captain A.
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Cassel, Felix Duffy, William J.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Cater, John Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Arnold, Sydney Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Clancy, John Joseph Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)
Barnes, George N. Clive, Captain Percy Archer Falconer, James
Barnston, Harry Clough, William Fell, Arthur
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Clynes, John R. Ffrench, Peter
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Condon, Thomas Joseph Field, William
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Cotton, William Francis Fitzgibbon, John
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Crumley, Patrick Flavin, Michael Joseph
Bethell, Sir J. H. Cullinan, John Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Dalrymple, Viscount Forster, Henry William
Blair, Reginald Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Gastrell, Major W. Houghton
Booth, Frederick Handel Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Gill, Alfred Henry
Bowerman, Charles W. Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Gilmour, Captain John
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Glanville, Harold James
Brace, William Dawes, James Arthur Goldsmith, Frank
Brady, Patrick Joseph Delany, William Goldstone, Frank
Brunner, John F. L. Denniss, E. R. B. Grant, J. A.
Griffith, Ellis Jones Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Royds, Edmund
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) M'Callum, Sir John M. Rucciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Hackett, John Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton) Meagher, Michael Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)
Hancock, John George Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Scanlan, Thomas
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Sheehy, David
Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Millar, James Duncan Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Hayden, John Patrick Molloy, Michael Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Hayward, Evan Molteno, Percy Alport Spear, Sir John Ward
Hazleton, Richard Mooney, John J. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Staveley-Hill, Henry
Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Muldoon, John Sutton, John E.
Henry, Sir Charles Munro, Robert Swift, Rigby
Hewart, Gordon Needham, Christopher T. Thomas, James Henry
Higham, John Sharp Nolan, Joseph Thynne, Lord Alexander
Hinds, John Nuttall, Harry Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Hodge, John O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Holt, Richard Durning O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Illingworth, Percy H. O'Dowd, John Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus O'Grady, James Walters, Sir John Tudor
Jessel, Captain H. M. O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Wardle, G. J.
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) O'Malley, William Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Webb, H.
Joyce, Michael O'Sullivan, Timothy White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Keating, Matthew Parker, James (Halifax) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Kellaway, Frederick George Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Kennedy, Vincent Paul Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Kilbride, Denis Pointer, Joseph Wills, Sir Gilbert
King, Joseph Randles, Sir John S. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molten) Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Reddy, Michael Wing, Thomas Edward
Lardner, James C. R. Redmond, William (Clare, E.) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Lewisham, Viscount Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.) Worthington-Evans, L.
Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich) Richardson, Thomas Whitehaven) Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Lundon, Thomas Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Roche, Augustine (Louth)
McGhee, Richard Roe, Sir Thomas TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. G. Roberts and Mr. S. Roberts.
Maclean, Donald Rowlands, James

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "receipt" ["or his receipt on her behalf"], to insert the words "if authorised by her."

This Amendment will bring this question to a real issue. It will really test whether there is a genuine desire to save the money for the woman. The only thing now is as to whether it is to be made quite clear that the husband only in that case, and in that case only, where he has been authorised to receive the money by his wife, shall do so. I do not want to detain the House by argument. Everything that can be said has been said. But I do say that the suggestion that administrative difficulties are in the way is really not the case. It is quite a common practice for building societies and for friendly societies to accept nominations from many persons; and there is not the slightest difficulty in doing it, because the husband and the wife will be known as belonging to one another. What will have to be shown is that the husband has been authorised by the wife to receive the money. I think this is a reasonable and proper Amendment, and I trust that the House will see that this justice is done to the woman.


I beg to second the Amendment.


This question was really decided by the last Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS "No, no."] I can only repeat here the same objection taken by me in the conference of friendly societies; that we have decided that the husband has got to pay the money to the wife. If he does not pay the money to the wife he is subject to the law. There is a profound difficulty in dealing with authorisation. If this is passed, unless the authorisation had been made before, no money could be paid at the time.


May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order."]


The hon. Member will have an opportunity of speaking later.


I am told that it is quite certain that a very large number of persons who will be confined will not make any authorisation before confinement. So long as you make it perfectly certain, and the House has accepted that, that the money shall be paid to the wife, then you have given every kind of protection that. is needed, without bringing in administrative difficulties. I do suggest to the House that these having been discussed in my conference with the friendly societies are in many cases difficulties which they say will make the matter very difficult indeed.


Just one word in reply to the right hon. Gentleman. How is it that these difficulties are so great now? They have always been got over in the past by nominations or by authorisations under the Friendly Societies Acts. Long before the National Insurance Act was passed the friendly societies, under their rules and under the Friendly Societies Acts, made nominations and made authorisations. Under these nominations and authorisations sums were paid. Why cannot the same authorisation be carried into effect, and so give effect to what we desire to see: that this benefit is the woman's benefit, and that she should have the power to authorise her husband to get it for her?


I would appeal to hon. Members opposite not to press this Amendment. The authorisation by the wife must be given either before she is ill or after she is ill. If it is meant to be given before she is ill it will be given months ahead on printed forms. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It can be, and the simplest way would be taken. I do not think hon. Members quite want that—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—that months beforehand, before the circumstances of the case, something should be signed. I venture to say that the woman herself months later may have a totally different view about her benefit. Either it will be made long before she is ill, and, therefore, I submit will not meet the case, or it will be made after she is ill. If it is made after she is ill, the approved society will wait—and I want hon. Members to realise this—until they are quite sure that she can authorise the receipt of it, and this means delay in paying the benefit. We are throwing upon the approved societies the onus of deciding that the recipient is authorised. To make quite sure they must wait until the woman has recovered sufficiently for her wishes to be made known. Let hon. Members put themselves in the position of a workman or working woman who has to distribute this benefit in working men's dwellings. He has to decide whether in these various cases the husband is quite authorised to receive the money, and to make quite sure, I venture to submit, in practice he will wait some time until the woman has recovered. That would be an unfair infliction upon the home that needs payment promptly.


I apologise for having interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, but I only wished to put to him this question: What procedure has he adopted in the case of the frequent absence of the husband during the time of the confinement of the wife with regard to giving a receipt for the money?


That is a question I answered before. There are cases where the money has been paid to the wife when the husband is away, but the friendly societies are quite sure that under the law as it stands that is not a legal discharge, and the husband, if he chose, could come lack and demand another 30s. In many such cases the maternity benefit, I regret to say, is held up.


An immense mountain has been made out of a molehill in regard to these difficulties. They have been got over, as we know, in cases of sickness benefit, in the case of the wife who is insured on her own account, and in the case of the unmarried mother. I really do not believe that there in any real difficulty in getting this receipt.


I only want to say one word in answer to the hon. Member for Pontefract. He knows perfectly well that no society would delay the payment of those benefits for a single hour if it knew that the woman had given no authorisation to have it paid to her husband. They would immediately make provision to pay to the wife. Any decently managed society, knowing that it had no authorisation to pay it to anyone else but the woman, would immediately pay it to her.


I do not know what justification the hon. Member has for any such assumption. Is it to be assumed that the approved societies are to make inquiries of its members as to whether they are likely to expect maternity benefit? It is an absolutely absurd suggestion, and, therefore, I make this appeal to the Noble Lord, and I am sure he will agree at once, that whether it be a bad husband or a bad wife, there would be no need for legislation in this direction. Therefore, we have to presume that the only object of this particular Amendment, if carried, is to protect the woman against a bad husband. That being agreed, I ask the House to consider the position. The bad husband knows the condition of the wife and knows that if this Amendment were carried she has power to deprive him of the 30s. or to let him have it. I ask the House to imagine the life that is going to be led in such a house prior to the confinement if that state of things is allowed to exist. What is going to be the condition of that woman's life?


As the hon. Member has appealed to me, may I say that the speech he is delivering with such eloquence is really a speech against the last Amendment?


That is no reason why it may not be a speech against this Amendment, and, furthermore, if that is the only argument against it, it is no reason why it may be a strong argument against his own Amendment. I am putting the matter from a practical standpoint. You have secured by the last Amendment that this benefit is to be the mother's benefit. Can the House contemplate the position, of the home where there is a bad husband, and where the wife knows he is bad? She knows what is likely to take place and the misery that must result on her refusal to make this his property.


I think his Amendment is really asking the House to undo the Resolution it has just come to. To put in these words would, in effect, make the provision we have made, allowing the husband to give a receipt on behalf of the wife, entirely nugatory, and it is a great objection also, because of the bad case which everyone wants protection against, to apply it in every case. It seems to me that we are going back on the old position, either by having a great deal of unnecessary delay in running the risk of the benefit being only paid to the wife. If any further protection is required, why put the onus on the husband to show he has the authorisation. If anyone rally thinks there is a case to be met, it could be met by putting in after the words "or his receipt on her behalf," the words "until she has required the payment to be made to her direct," giving her the opportunity of preventing the husband From receiving the money; but do not say in every case she is to give authority to the husband to receive the money. Personally I do not think any words are wanted at all, but I call attention to the possible alternative to show that the words I suggest would meet the case if there was a case to meet at all. This Amendment only attempts to meet that one case, but it complicates the procedure as regards 999 cases, where it is not required at all.


I hope the Noble Lord will adhere to his Amendment, otherwise I feel certain these bad cases are sure to occur. In the case of a bad husband, he will go to his friendly society and say, "My wife is confined and I want the money." The officer has got to take his receipt and the officer can make no inquiries into the condition of the home life, whereas if the officer can say to him, "Where is your authority?" then he would be able to see, when the case arises, that the payment is made direct to the wife and not to the husband. If some sort of check like this is not introduced, friendly societies will find themselves in the same position as hitherto, and will have to hand over the money to a bad husband, who will be able to spend it.


May I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Worthington-Evans) that he said if we carried this Amendment we should run the risk of having the money only paid to the wife, but that is just what I want to have done.


And I observed that this Amendment was going back on the decision the House has already come to.


I am sure the public outside look at this matter in a simpler way than it is looked at by speakers in this House. The Standing Committee has resolved with the general approval of the country that maternity benefit might to be the mother's benefit. We now have a number of extraordinary legal and administrative reasons put forward as to why this House should nullify that Resolution, and provide that although the benefit belongs to the mother, it can he paid to somebody else without any authority from the person to whom it belongs. I venture to think that if the House does not accept the Amendment of the Noble Lord, it will in effect not only be nullifying the decision already come to which proves that the benefit ought to belong to the mother, but it will nullify it by technical and legal methods which do not commend themselves to the country, and which are calculated to have a bad effect so far as the people of the country are concerned. The question is, having made up our minds as to what is just in regard to the system of these maternity benefits, we are

going to say that what we believe to be just shall be done, or whether, having come to that decision, we are going to reverse the policy already arrived at.

Question put, "That the words 'if authorised by her' be there inserted."

The House divided: Ayes, 186, Noes, 165.

Division No. 263.] AYES. [6.25 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Gladstone, W. G. C. Murphy, Martin J.
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Neilson, Francis
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Goulding, Edward Alfred Neville, Reginald J. N.
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Griffith, Ellis Jones Newdegate, F. A.
Baird, John Lawrence Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Newman, John R. P.
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S. E.) Nolan, Joseph
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Gulland, John William Norton, Captani Cecil W.
Baldwin, Stanley Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton) O'Dowd, John
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) O'Malley, William
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs) Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) O'Shaughtnessy, P. J.
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Harris, Henry Percy Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Beale, Sir William Phipson Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Parkes, Ebenezer
Beck, Arthur Cecil Hemmerde, Edward George Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Higham, John Sharp Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Bentham, George Jackson Hills, John Waller Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham.)
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Hoare, S. J. G. Pollock, Ernest Murray
Bird, Alfred Hogg, David C. Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Boland, John Pius Holmes, Daniel Turner Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid) Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Boyton, James Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian) Primrose, Hon. Neil James
Bridgeman, William Clive Horner, Andrew Long Pringle, William M. R.
Brocklehurst, W. B. Houston, Robert Paterson Radford, G. H.
Brunner, John F. L. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Raphael, Sir Herbert H
Bull, Sir William James Hunt, Rowland Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Burn, Colonel C. R. Jessel, Captain H. M. Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shield)
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas John, Edward Thomas Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jowett, Frederick William Roche, Augustine (Louth)
Cator, John Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement Ronaldshay, Earl of
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Rowntree, Arnold
Chancellor, Henry George Larmor, Sir J. Salter, Arthur Clavell
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West) Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.
Collins, G. P. (Greenock) Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th) Sheehy, David
Cowan, W. H. Levy, Sir Maurice Snowden, Philip
Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Spear, Sir John Ward
Craik, Sir Henry Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Stewart, Gershom
Dalrymple, Viscount Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Swift, Rigby
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee Taibot, Lord Edmund
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Lyell, Charles Henry Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
De Forest, Baron Lynch, A. A. Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Delany, William Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Tennant, Harold John
Denison-Pender, J. C. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Denniss, E. R. B. MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Dickinson, W. H. Macpherson, James Ian Tryon, Captain George Clement
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C Scott MacVeagh, Jeremiah Wadsworth, John
Doris, William McCurdy, C. A. Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Duke, Henry Edward M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Duncannon, Viscount Magnus, Sir Philip White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Manfield, Harry Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Marks, Sir George Croydon Williamson, Sir Archibald
Fell, Arthur Marshall, Arthur Harold Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Wolmer, Viscount
Ffrench, Peter Money, L. G. Chiozza Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Morgan, George Hay Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Morrell, Philip Yate, Colonel C. E.
Fletcher, John Samuel Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Gibbs, G. A. Mount, William Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord Robert Cecil and Mr. John Ward.
Gilmour, Captain John Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Arnold, Sydney Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks
Addison, Dr. Christopher Barnes, George N. Benn, Hon. Hamilton (Greenwich)
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Barnston, Harry Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Hayden, John Patrick O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Blair, Reginald Hayward, Evan O'Shee, James John
Booth, Frederick Handel Hazleton, Richard O'Sullivan, Timothy
Bowerman, Charles W. Henderson, Sir A. (St. Geo., Han. Sq.) Parker, James (Halifax)
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Brace, William Henry, Sir Charles Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Hewart, Gordon Pointer, Joseph
Bryce, J. Annan Hinds, John Handles, Sir John S.
Byles, Sir William Pollard Hodge, John Reddy, Michael
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Hodge, James Myles Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)
Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Holt, Richard Durning Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Hughes, Spencer Leigh Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Clough, William Illingworth, Percy H. Roe, Sir Thomas
Clynes, John R. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Rowlands, James
Condon, Thomas Joseph Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Cotton, William Francis Joyce, Michael Samuel, J (Stockton-on-Tees)
Crumley, Patrick Keating, Matthew Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)
Cullinan, John Kellaway, Frederick George Scanlan, Thomas
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Kennedy, Vincent Paul Shortt, Edward
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Kilbride, Denis Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) King, Joseph Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Dawes, J. A. Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Lardner, James C. R. Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)
Devlin, Joseph Leach, Charles Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Dillon, John Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Donelan, Captain A. Lundon, Thomas Sutton, John E.
Duffy, William J. Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Thomas, J. H.
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) McGhee, Richard Thorne, William (West Ham)
Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) Maclean, Donald Thynne, Lord Alexander
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Falconer, James M'Callum, Sir John M. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Field, William Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G. Wardle, George J.
Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Meagher, Michael Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Fitzgibbon, John Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Webb, H.
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Middlebrook, William White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Millar, James Duncan White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Forster, Henry William Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Molloy, Michael Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Gill, A. H. Molteno, Percy Alport Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Glanville, H. J. Mooney, John J. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Goldsmith, Frank Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Goldstone, Frank Muldoon, John Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Grant, J. A. Munro, Robert Wing, Thomas Edward
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Needham, Christopher T. Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Nuttall, Harry Worthington-Evans, L.
Hackett, John O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Hancock, John George O'Doherty, Philip
Hardie, J. Keir O'Grady, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. G. Roberts and Mr. S. Roberts.
Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)

Proposed words, as inserted in the Bill.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "child" ["interests of the mother and child"], to insert the words "or, if the child dies or is stillborn, of the mother."

Amendment not seconded.


I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "person" ["wife of an insured person"], to insert the words "or, if the child is a posthumous child, a widow."

At the end of Sub-section (3) these words have been inserted, but in the pressure and urgency of this legislation the matter was overlooked in the first two sub-sections. I understand that the Gov- ernment are prepared to accept this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in paragraph (a), after the word "is" if her husband is a member"], to insert the words "or was at the date of his death."

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in paragraph (b), after the word "is"' ["if her husband is a deposit contributor"], to insert the words "or was at the date of his death."

Amendment agreed to.