HC Deb 15 August 1913 vol 56 cc3061-6

(1) Regulations made by the Treasury under Section 83 of the principal Act may incorporate the Joint Committee constituted under that Section.

(2) All documents issued before the commencement of this Act by the Joint Committee, either alone or jointly with any of the bodies of Insurance Commissioners appointed for the purposes of Part I. of the principal Act shall be deemed to have been validly issued if issued under a seal purporting to be the seal of the Joint Committee, or under the hands of any four or more of the members of the committee countersigned by the secretary or clerk to the Joint Committee.

(3) The Documentary Evidence Act, 1868, as amended by the Documentary Evidence Act, 1882, shall apply to each of the said several bodies of Insurance Commissioners, and to the said Joint Committee, as if each of those bodies and the Joint Committee were included in the first column of the Schedule to the first mentioned Act., and the chairman or any other member or the secretary or clerk, or any person authorised to act on behalf of the secretary or clerk, of the body or committee, were mentioned in the second column of that Schedule, and as if the regulations referred to in those Acts included any document issued by any of those bodies or that committee.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words, "And shall provide that in the case of approved societies having amongst their members persons resident in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, or any two or any three of such parts of the United Kingdom, such societies shall render returns as to membership, contributions, and benefits solely to the Joint Committee, and shall keep their books and accounts in such form as may be prescribed by the Joint Committee; and that for the purposes of the provisions of the principal Act relating to valuations, surpluses, deficiencies, and transfers, every such society shall be considered as a single society domiciled in that country where its principal office is situate; and Section 83, Sub-section (3), of the principal Act shall be interpreted accordingly."

I move this Amendment formally, in order that I may make a statement in reference to it. I am sure the Committee, including the Government, will agree that we are rather in a difficult position with regard to this matter, owing to the Clause which the Government are going to move and the Memorandum which they have circulated, and which a large number of Members have not been able to see. I did get a copy of it owing to the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, but I have certainly had inadequate time to follow it. The Amendment I have put down is to deal with the position of the international societies, and to try and put an end to what the right hon. Gentleman described as the torturing administration which is going on in reference to them. I want it to be distinctly understood that, if I withdraw my Amendment now, I shall not be prejudiced in moving it hereafter if I consider it desirable in order to put these international societies in a better position than they are in at the present time. If the right hon. Gentleman will kindly give me that guarantee, I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.


I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the course which he has pursued, and I think he will find that the new Clause, when it is on the Paper and of which he has a draft copy, will largely meet the very points he tries to raise in his Clause. I regret that the hon. Gentleman has not had an opportunity before of seeing our new Clause, and I must confess that I have been under some misapprehension in the matter. I never imagined that this particular question would be in order on this Clause. I am not in the least disputing your ruling, Mr. Wilson, but that is the reason why the Clause was not on the Paper before. I thought that we should have some days before we dealt with the question, but if, as I understand, we fully protect the rights of the hon. Gentleman, I will put this new Clause down on the Paper one day next week, as soon as hon. Members desire it to be taken.


I have only just received the Clause, and I think the right hon. Gentleman must admit that it is rather intricate and requires some study. I would like to ask whether it will meet the case about which there has been a good deal of complaint of the secondary school teachers, the nurses, and governesses, and other similar classes, which cannot, as he is aware, make up the number of 5,000 for valuation purposes, and therefore retain their own approved society within one of the four sections into which the United Kingdom is divided. I should like to have an assurance on that point.


It is designed to meet that case, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will study the Clause and the Memorandum. I would remind the Committee that by putting it down as a Government Clause it gets precedence.


I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not put it down on Tuesday, because it affects so many societies who ought to have notice of it, and an opportunity of communicating to members of the Committee their wishes in regard to it. After all, this is a matter of actual detailed management, and, until the various societies have seen the draft Clause, they cannot say how it will affect their particular interests. It, therefore, ought not to come on for discussion until Tuesday or Wednesday.


Certainly. I had hoped that we might have got the Bill by Wednesday, but I will certainly agree entirely with the wishes of the hon. Member.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


I desire, before the Clause is put, to identify myself with the protest made yesterday on behalf of the Irish Members and the Scotch Members against the suggestion made for the abolition of the National Commissions. I understand that the difficulty is to a large extent met by the draft proposal of the Financial Secretary, but in any event I think it ought to be quite clear that the real objection of the trade unions has not been to the National Commissions having a separate existence, but to the difficulties which have arisen, as I understand, in the administration of the Act. I mention that because I should be very sorry indeed if the impression got abroad that the trade union movement is going to thrust itself in some way against the national sentiment of the various nationalities in the United Kingdom. I am quite certain in my own mind that is not their intention. It must be remembered that these various separate Commissions were formed at the special request of members representing the different countries affected. In particular, in the case of Wales, it had the unanimous support of all the Welsh Liberal Members in the House. We have a special reason for asking that our case should be separately treated, because a large part of our work has already been undertaken in the past by what is known as the Welsh National Memorial, and, while we shall be most ready to support any Amendment which may facilitate the performance of the work by the various trade unions and friendly societies, we shall undoubtedly give the most strenuous opposition to any proposals to abolish the separate Commissions.


I must enter a caveat to the suggestion that our objections to this Clause are going to be met by any such method. I believe the maintenance of these four Commissions is a gross and extravagant waste. It is a costly administration, it is a clumsy administration, and I believe it is carried on against the wishes of a vast majority of the leaders of friendly societies. We have it announced from time to time that the Government cannot make this or that concession solely on account of the expense, and the sooner we cut down the expenses of these extravagant Commissions, which are costing us something between half a million and a million per year, and devote that money to giving benefits to the people, the more satisfied the country will be. I believe no Amendment could possibly be devised which would give more satisfaction than one in such a direction. Downstairs, on Report, and indeed here, I intend to continue to do my best to try and get these four Commissions amalgamated.


I do not think that the hon. Gentleman represents any real feeling among the associations in the remarks he has made. Certainly, he does not in Scotland, where we are practically unanimous in our appreciation of our separate Commission. Even where it differs from the English Commission we approve of it all the more, because we think it has adapted the Act to the circumstances in Scotland in a way which is much more appropriate for Scotland than the manner in which it has been applied in England. I have in my hands a circular from the Scottish National Conference of Affiliated Friendly Societies, in which the following is to be found:— At the annual meeting of the societies the following resolution was unanimously adopted:— 'That the duly elected representatives of friendly societies, tinder the auspices of the Scottish National Conference of Affiliated Friendly Societies, now constituted under the National Health Insurance Act and representatives of societies or branches of the international societies, comprising a considerable majority of the total insured persons in Scotland, do repudiate the desire or necessity.'


On a point of Order. This Clause has nothing whatever to do with the four Commissions. The Motion we are discussing is "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." The Clause merely incorporates a Joint Committee, a body which is to have a seal and to exercise certain functions. I would appeal to my hon. Friend not to open up this question, because, if he does so, other hon. Members will also desire to speak upon it, and we shall spend a considerable time in discussing a question which really has nothing to do with the Motion before the Committee.


The right hon. Gentleman has occupied a much longer time than I intended to devote to my concluding remarks.


Will the hon. Member conclude his remarks?


My concluding remarks were to be these: "That this organisation of friendly societies, comprising a considerable majority of the total insured persons in Scotland, do repudiate the desire or necessity for amalgamating the said four Commissions in one as advocated by certain official interests in England."

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.