§ (1) Any order or special order made under the principal Act may be revoked varied, or amended by an order or special order made in like manner as the original order.
§ (2) The time within which the powers of the Insurance Commissioners to make orders under Section 78 of the principal Act may be exercised shall be extended to the thirty-first day of December nineteen hundred and fourteen.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
No doubt when this Act was passed it was very desirable to give far-reaching and extensive and almost despotic powers to the Commissioners. The House, after debate and discussion downstairs, limited the date for those powers to the 1st of January, 1914, and it is now proposed to give a whole year's extension of this great and far-reaching power. I for one have heard no reasons produced why this extension should be made. I am not for one moment going to say that the Commissioners have not discharged their very difficult duties with great tact, but they are human the same as other people, and undoubtedly mistakes have been made. It seems to me it is an entirely vicious principle for the House of Commons to delegate its own responsible duties to Commissioners. We have our authority from our constituents and those who are working the approved societies have equally their authority from those who appoint them their representatives. I can see no reason so far why those great approved societies with their colossal experience in the working of the friendly societies and the trade unions are still to be kept in leading strings and held under the authority of the Commissioners. I want elasticity given to them. I do not believe in red tapeism. I believe in democratic Toryism which gives the people this power and this authority, and I altogether object to the autocratic dictation which this Government is trying to impose on every one of our voluntary institutions.
There are in the administration of the Act unnecessary complications and 3085 difficulties set up by the continuation of this authority, and there is triplilication of work each time amongst the approved societies, the Commissioners and the members. I think the time has absolutely come when these approved societies can be subjected to the regulations of the Treasury the same as the friendly societies were heretofore. Thinking that, I would have been bound to move the deletion of this Sub-section, for only recently there has been an Act taken by the Commissioners that I say exceeds all bounds. Without any sanction or authority direct or indirect from Parliament, they have altered the forms of procedure of election in this country. The English Commissioners have deliberately decided that instead of the public having in the old way direct representatives on Insurance Committees that there shall actually be introduced a system of proportional representation so as to confuse the issues. On that I do not think the Commissioners or the Government have any power to introduce this innovation. It has never been sanctioned by Parliament. It is a debatable point. Friendly societies and approved societies themselves are split in twain as to the principle of proportional representation. I have here resolutions passed from great friendly societies in my own constituency directly disapproving of this innovation, and asking that they should have the whole power of election of their representatives under a system which they knew, and under the system which has never been changed by the authority of Parliament. We want to get on to the other Clauses. I wish to go on, and we have not been given time, owing to this Bill coming before us so late in this Session to debate these things, and this question as it ought to be debated, but I say no single argument has been produced by the Government for undoing the date and extending it to another twelve months. It was deliberately put in in the House of Commons after full discussion and Debate.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I would like to ask the hon. Member as a Democratic Tory of unimpeachable faith, to allow the Commission, with the very limited powers they have under Clause 78, a further extension of time in getting the Act into operation. I think the hon. Member, if I may say so with the utmost respect—and judging by what has been said in the House of Commons by some other Members, the remark applies to them—is under a delusion as to the extent of these powers. If he was 3086 actually working the Act, he would find these powers are very strictly limited. So far from allowing the Commissioners to do anything they please, they are only allowed to modify by Order such conditions as are necessary, not to change the Act, but to bring the Act into operation. That is a very limited power indeed.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The whole of the Act and the whole of the benefits are not in operation yet. We wish to have a continuation of the power so that the adjustments which may have to be made in connection with this Act may be made. I think the introduction of this Act alone would be enough to enable me to appeal to hon. Gentlemen to give us extra time. As to the general powers, we always said in the House of Commons that it was doubtful if the time finally inserted would not require to be extended. This is our original proposal. Consider, for example, the case of the deposit contributors; their case is to come up next year for examination. [An HON. MEMBER: "By the House?"] There are many orders which are absolutely necessary to run to bring the Act into operation in connection with the deposit contributors. We know very well their case is to be considered next year if by next year any deposit contributors exist. Another case that has been brought to our notice is that of the Army and Navy. There are provisions in Clause 78 in connection with the Army and Navy that apply to men all over the world, and the men in some cases will not have returned from the other side of the world when that time expires, if it is not prolonged, in connection with Order 78. As to the question of election the hon. Member said that that was not approved by Parliament. The thing was specifically put before Parliament. There was a Division on it, and Parliament did approve of the Principle.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Is there anything in the act saying that proportional representation was to be resorted to in connection with these elections?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It was very fully discussed. The matter was raised by the hon. Member, who put his point as usual with great clearness, in connection with the appointment of Committees.
The point with regard to Scottish Committees came up. There was and is no proportional representation in Scotland. It is only in relation to the English Committees that proportional representation was discussed.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The matter was discussed in connection with the point that the hon. Member really made.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It was whether you were to have a poll of the whole of the members, or whether you have to have them nominated. The members of the Committees are nominated by the representatives of the approved societies. In any case no Motion that the hon. Member could make now could alter that. There will be no more election of Insurance Committees before the three years have expired. This Order will have expired by then. It is really with the knowledge of the necessity of this Order from an administrative point of view that I feel that the Committee should let us have this year's extension.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I have already said in the House of Commons that I object to this extension of the powers. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said has removed, in any shape or form, the objection that I feel. As he said, the extension of these powers is necessary, because the Act is not wholly in operation. He mentioned the fact that disablement benefit has not yet begun to be paid. If I recollect aright, even the extended powers of these Commissioners will have come to an end before disablement benefit begins to be paid, and, therefore, I do not think there is anything in that argument. The other Clause would be practically valueless so far as the Commissioners are concerned for dealing with disablement benefit, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded the Committee, they only relate to things which are necessary and expedient for establishing Insurance Committees or Advisory Committees, or for bringing this part of the Act into operation. I do not really think that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to disablement benefit affect the position at all. May I remind him that 3088 we are bound to have a new amending Bill dealing with the position of the deposit contributors, so that I do not think there is any necessity to extend these powers to enable the Commissioners to take any steps in connection with them. They can be fully dealt with and covered by the provisions of the amending Bill which is brought in to deal with them. I do not think there is any occasion to extend the powers of the Commissioners in that way. I can only repeat that I object, and object very strongly, to giving any Department of the Government powers to alter or to vary what Parliament itself has resolved, and on those grounds I shall support the Amendment.
I desire most strongly to support this Amendment. It was with very great reluctance that the House of Commons allowed these very wide and arbitary powers to be given to the Insurance Commissioners, and that only in consideration of the strong appeal from the Government in view of the complexity of the Act and the difficulty of bringing its provisions into effective operation. Only under that strong appeal to Parliament to permit the Government a longer period than Parliament would otherwise have been prepared to vouchsafe to them was it given. This particular Clause was only defended upon the footing that it had been included in other and previous Acts of Parliament and simply with the object of allowing the administrative body a somewhat larger period of time to make the necessary departmental regulations. It was pointed out that in previous Acts of Parliament that period was a very limited period. It was not proposed to go beyond a very limited period in this case. What this Clause seeks to do is to allow the Commissioners power to make Orders and Regulations which may have the effect of modifying the provisions of an Act of Parliament. It specifically says so. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Commissioners require this power in order to bring the Act into operation. In ordinary parliamentary language the Act came into operation at the beginning of last year. What is now being asked is that the Commissioners shall have the right for two and a half years beyond that period to issue orders which may have the effect of modifying this Act of Parliament, and on the footing that they are bringing the Act into operation. That is a very wide power indeed. I am amazed that Gentlemen representing the great democracy of this 3089 country and with highly democratic views are prepared to endorse the suggestion that the Commissioners should be given this power. I have never met a more courteous and apparently mild-mannered set of individuals possessed of and exercising such arbitrary and despotic powers than the gentlemen and the lady who form this Commission. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that it is necessary to have this prolongation of the time because it would be unwise to bring certain Orders now in existence to an end. There is nothing in this Clause that would necessitate existing Orders being brought to an end. These Orders are not only to continue to be operative, but even to have the effect of an Act of Parliament. The only possible excuse for this extra period of twelve months is that the Commissioners may bring further Orders into operation, and thereby further harass an already considerably harassed public. I am perfectly amazed at the suggestion of my hon. Friend that he has not only absorbed, but presumably has at his fingers' ends, the whole of these Orders and Regulations. I believe that he is the only man in the country who can make that claim. However that may be, I earnestly ask the Committee not to consent to the suggestion that for yet another year these arbitrary powers shall be retained by the Commissioners.
§ Mr. NEWTON
I wish again to express my feeling that we ought not to extend these powers to the Commissioners for a further period. There is only one little difficulty that I see in the proposal to delete Sub-section (2), and that is that presumably Parliament will not be sitting at the time the powers will expire. If my hon. Friend had moved to insert the 1st April in place of the 31st December, I should have been more ready to support him. The 1st April would have been an appropriate date, being the birthday of Bismarck, the German statesman. But as he has moved to omit the Sub-section I shall certainly support him. The hon. Member for the Wilton Division (Mr. Bathurst) has so well expressed my view as to the inequity of these powers being vested in this body of gentlemen and of further extending the period that I need not further refer to the matter.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I hope something more will be said on this side of the Committee in support of this Sub-section. It appears 3090 to me that all the argument so far has come from the other side, and I share many of the opinions which Members opposite have expressed. It is probably well-known to my colleagues that I have a perfect horror of handing over to our great permanent Civil Service, for which we all have such profound respect, duties which are primarily devolved upon us by our constituents. Therefore I have some difficulty in supporting my right hon. Friend because the extension to the 31st December next year appears to me to be a very large one, and one which demands a greater defence than we have yet had.
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman opposite. It seems to me that the Government have Made no case for the prolongation of these powers. They were given powers under circumstances which no doubt the Committee remember. They were given powers in the original Act, against the protest of the Opposition, permitting them through the Commissioners with the consent of the Treasury to modify the Act practically in a very wide way. The Chancellor of the Exchequer when his attention was called to the fact in the House said:—I have been considering this point, and I agree that on the face of it it looks as if the powers conferred on the Commissioners by this Clause are almost unlimited. That is certainly not the intention of the Act. As I explained earlier in the Session it is purely to deal with temporary difficulties.The right hon. Gentleman said that that was the reason, and he made it perfectly clear that it was to deal with temporary difficulties. He then went on to say that he proposed that the power should only be exercisable to the 1st January, 1915. I objected to that, and in answer to my objection the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:I do not think hon. Members quite realise the whole difficulties of the time. If the Committee thinks that 1915 is too long, I shall be perfectly prepared to cut it down to, say, two years after the passing of the Act. That would be making it quite temporary. We want to have these powers which have been in Al recent Acts.I then called attention to the fact that in the Irish Local Government Act, which had been quoted as a precedent, the powers were only given for five months, not two years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said:—I intend to suggest the 1st January, 1914, if that will meet the views of the hon. Gentleman.As a matter of fact, that did not meet the views of the hon. Gentleman, but notwithstanding, it was put into the Act. As the 3091 Committee will observe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he wanted it until that date purely for the purpose of meeting temporary difficulties, and that although the powers looked to be very wide, they would be limited to temporary difficulties. The Secretary to the Treasury has not given us any reason why these powers, which were limited in time by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are now being extended. I do not know if he suggests that the temporary difficulties are still going on, which snake it necessary to alter the Act. I wonder if Members realise the sort of orders which are being made under these powers. Here is a book-full. They are not all orders under Section 78, but a large number of them are. Let me read the first recital:—Whereas, by Section 78 of the National Insurance Act, it is amongst other things enacted that if any difficulty arises with respect to bringing into operation Part I. of the Act, the Insurance Commissioners, with the consent of the Treasury, may, by Order, do anything which appears to them necessary or expedient for making that part of the Act come into operation, and that any such Order may modify the provisions of the Act so far as may appear necessary or expedient for carrying that Order into effect.
I told the Committee that it was the recital in the Order, and of course the recital in the Order recites the powers under the Act. I wonder whether the Committee realise that that power is now to be continued for another year for no reason that has been given to the Committee at all. When the power was objected to in the House of Commons the Chancellor of the Exchequer met us, although not sufficiently I think, by cutting down the period, and now the Secretary to the Treasury without any reason whatever asks us to give another year. It seems to me that we shall be failing in our primary duty to our constituents if we allow these powers out of our hands into the hands of the Commissioners and the Treasury, who are working together in this matter.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I desire to say in one sentence why I oppose this Amendment. I do so because it is in the interest of the friendly societies and of everybody working the Act that the Clause should stand is it is. It has been shown that these provisions are invaluable for enabling defects to be overcome. It is in the interest of everybody who desires that the Act, should work smoothly that the Commissioners should have the power to make such 3092 adaptation as may be necessary in circumstances that have not yet arisen. For these reasons I hope the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. BOOTH
It is essential in the interests of the large organisations working the Act that the Commissioners should have elastic powers. If that were not so, and if we were to adopt the view of the Opposition we should have innumerable law suits, and instead of these matters being dealt with by mutual bargaining and arrangements between the societies and the Commissioners who want the Act to be a success we should have any amount of law cases, with members of the legal profession drawing big fees. As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) knows I am usually with hint in not wanting to give too much power to State Departments, but in this case the powers the Commissioners possess have been such a success that I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow the Commissioners to go on working the Act as in the past, rendering this service to the insured million.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The view we hold in relation to this question is this, that while we would take our stand with gentlemen opposite in resisting powers being given to anybody that Parliament should legitimately retain, we desire to emphasise the, fact that members of approved societies dealing with work prior to this Act coming into operation always have had the power on emergency of calling special delegate meetings, and it was important that anything that particularly or pecuniarily affected them should be immediately dealt with. That was a power not infrequently exercised and was of advantage to the societies as a whole. This Clause gives the Commissioners practically power to do what the approved societies have done all along. I think it is absurd to assume that on matters of this description Parliament in future should be concerning itself.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I only rise to say that. I am not surprised that the earthly twins who sit on either side of the Gangway opposite are going to act together in this matter as they did in other transactions, but I am surprised that representatives of labour in this House are still determined that they should be temporarily governed by the extension of this power.
§ Question put, "That Sub-section (2) stand part of the Clause."3093
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 32; Noes, 11.
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.|
|Addison, Dr.||Dickinson, Mr.||Macdonald, Mr. Ramsay|
|Alden, Mr.||Esmonde, Dr.||Macnamara, Dr.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Falconer, Mr.||MacVeagh, Mr.|
|Booth, Mr.||Gwynn, Mr. Stephen||Masterman, Mr.|
|Boyle, Mr. Daniel||Harcourt, Mr. Robert||Millar, Mr. Duncan|
|Bowerman, Mr.||Harvey, Mr. Edmund||Money, Mr. Chiozza|
|Buxton, Mr. Noel||Hazleton, Mr.||O'Grady, Mr.|
|Byles, Sir William||Hinds, Mr.||Roberts, Mr. George|
|Carr-Gomm, Mr.||Jones, Mr. Glyn-||Scott, Mr. MacCallum|
|Dawes, Mr.||Lardner, Mr.||Thomas, Mr.|
|Devlin, Mr.||Lynch, Mr.|
|Bathurst, Mr. Charles||Goulding, Mr.||Newton, Mr.|
|Boyle, Mr. William||Lawson, Mr. Harry||Ormsby-Gore, Mr.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, Mr. Godfrey||Worthington-Evans, Mr.|
|Forster, Mr.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.