§ Bill further considered.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Before we begin, I should like to consult the Committee. We are adding a variety of new Clauses, and it seems to me that in the drafting of the Bill for the House the clerks would naturally put all the Clauses of one sort together. Such a course would be much better for the Bill, and for the House for consideration, without, of course, altering the words in any of the Clauses. For instance, when we have two or three Clauses relating to maternity benefit, it seems convenient to group them together. Do hon. Members see any objection to that course?
There can be no doubt about the convenience of that course, provided that none of the words are altered. That is the danger when grouping is done. A certain thing ought to come in as a proviso perhaps, and there is a temptation to insert it in a different place. For symmetry it may be put in one place but it is essential that it should be in its proper place.
§ Mr. CASSEL
Very often these Clauses when put together have some words applying to them all when they should apply only to one. For instance, words may be used such as "This Section shall come into force at some particular time; or words in this Section shall have some particular meaning." Therefore, if you put two or three Clauses together, the meaning intended to apply to one would not be intended to apply to the others. That is the danger.
§ Mr. CASSEL
It would be wrong to lump together three Clauses if in one of those Clauses there is a reference intended to apply only to that one Clause. The 3348 combining of the three might have the result of giving a different effect entirely to the others.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I give an undertaking, if the Committee agree to this suggestion, that that shall not be done.
Before we go on to the new Clause on the Paper I want to call attention to what was arranged, as I thought, yesterday, and what has in the meantime actually been done. We were told yesterday that in order that the Government might get some new Clauses which they wanted, they were going to put their names on those Clauses, for the purpose of bringing them forward for discussion, so that they might be dealt with, and the Secretary to the Treasury said that he intended to select a number of, as he hoped, non-controversial Clauses dealing with machinery which he thought would command the general support of the Committee, and he put his name down to them so that they might be further considered. Later on he said that all those Amendments which had precedence might pass because they were non-controversial.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
Perhaps the hon. Member will read the rest of the sentence.
There are thirty Clauses and Amendments to which the right hon. Gentleman has attached his name, twenty-five of them in the shape of new Clauses and five in the shape of Amendments to the Schedule. It is an absolute farce for this Committee to attempt to consider twenty-five new Clauses and five important Amendments to the Schedule in one sitting. The Bill had thirteen Clauses when it was introduced, and here we are asked to consider thirty new Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman also promised—in fact he said, "I will guarantee not to bring in any new Government Clauses except those which I have indicated"; and he added that, "With this reservation, I am told there is a machinery Government Clause consequential on something we have already done. With that safeguard, I am content to agree that there should be no more new Clauses brought in." There is one at any rate—I do not know how many more, because I have not been able to read the Clauses through—but there is one on page 56, which stands in the name of the Secretary to the Treasury and my Friend the hon. Member for Salisbury, called "Calculation of 3349 Arrears." That is a new Clause, and different in substance from a Clause which was down on the Paper, and is still on the Paper on page 60, in the name of the hon. Member for Leicester and others. I will not attempt to argue the differences now, but I presume it has been done by an oversight. If the right hon. Gentleman says it has been done by an oversight there is an end of it. He is certainly, at the last moment, springing upon the Committee a most controversial subject, and without its having ever appeared on the Paper until this morning. There is a great desire, and I share it, to enable these six-monthly cards to be employed, and to enable arrears to be dealt with, but I say it is impossible to consider that in the course of a quarter of an hour at the end of a long day.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps the hon. Member has given that as an example of what he has said before. Perhaps it would be better for him to raise that point when we come to it.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The hon. Member has not quite represented what I have said. He has not read the whole sentence. The hon. Member for Wilton made an appeal to me yesterday not only to star Clauses which the Government thought desirable, but to star Clauses which the Government would look upon with a sympathetic eye, and which might be carried if they were of a non-controversial character. I do not mind if the Committee say "We will not discuss anything more." As far as the Government is concerned, we have got the definite Government Clauses, but I am desiring to safeguard a large number of Members who desire to get into the Bill a number of non-controversial Clauses which they think of importance. As to those which I have suggested should have discussion, an overwhelming number are non-controversial. A large number are designed to meet promises which we have already made. We have had discussion, and I have said that if the hon. Member would bring it up on a new Clause, we would consider it. There are others, like the double Maternity Benefit Clause in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, which the Committee accepted on a former Clause, and I should consider it playing false with the Committee if I did not star a new Clause like that. I went through some hundreds of Clauses yesterday, I suppose, and out of those I have selected 3350 those which the Government would have no objection to see placed on the Paper. They are something like twenty-four. I do not think it can be said that I have been partial as between the various parties in the Committee. I find that of those Clauses nine are standing, or did stand, in the names of hon. Gentlemen opposite, eleven in the name of my hon. Friend, three in the name of the Irish party and three in the name of the Labour party. I think that that seems a fair distribution. I did not, when I was dealing with the new Clauses, take any heed as to the names in which they stood. I suggested that as the Debate continued, hon. Members would see that these are non-controversial, or designed to meet promises. As to the suggestion of the Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for Salisbury, I think you, Sir, have ruled that we had better deal with that when it comes up. I should have starred the Arrears Clause standing in the names of a number of Members of the Committee had I not had information that that Clause would be exceedingly controversial. On the other hand, I have promised the approved societies to endeavour to get a six-months' card, and the House of Commons have promised that too. If I had starred the Arrears Clause, the hon. Member might have moved his Clause as an Amendment to the Arrears Clause. As I understand, the Arrears Clause would mean prolonged controversy, I do not see why the hon. Member should not bring on his own Clause.
§ Mr. FORSTER
As I said yesterday, the Government must take full responsibility for the Clauses which they have adopted, and I do not know that we can do very much beyond giving them some examination. It is quite true, as my hon. Friend beside me said, it is impossible that we should have any detailed discussions on the various Clauses to-day Therefore, we must throw upon the Government the responsibility as to the Clauses they take. They, and not we, must take full responsibility. With reference to what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the Arrears Clause, it appears to me that it is in essence as well as in form a new Clause. It appears upon the Paper to-day for the first time, and to that extent it is a departure from what the right hon. Gentleman laid down yesterday. I do not think we want to have any bickerings about this matter, but the right hon. Gentleman will see that if 3351 he does put down a Clause which is new in essence as well as in form, it would be a departure from what he laid clown yesterday. In these circumstances I suggest that he should bring up the Clause on Report, when he will have a perfectly free hand, and the House will be able to consider it. I do not see why it should take any undue length of time. We had better adhere as closely as we can to the understanding arrived at in Committee yesterday. I hope we shall be able to get through our work to-day in a reasonable time.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
As the right hon. Gentleman referred to the request I made to him before we parted yesterday, I should like to point out that what I proposed was that he should not only place his name against the particular Clauses which he intended definitely to support and urge the Committee to accept, but that he should indicate in some way the other Clauses with which he was in general sympathy, but about which he was not prepared to give a definite opinion on behalf of the Government until he had heard some discussion in Committee. What he has actually done—I do not complain of it—is to place his name against all Clauses that would come within either of those categories. The only difficulty about it is that it means a much wider field of material with which we must deal than we had anticipated. I am not sure I altogether agree with my hon. Friend, and, for my own part, I hope we shall strenuously tackle our task to-day and endeavour to get through as much of it as we can. I hope that questions of substance that are raised on various Clauses, including some that have not the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman's name against them, will receive some consideration, and that the discussion will not necessarily be confined to Clauses that deal only with procedure. I may indicate one. There is an Amendment standing in my name which was put down at the right hon. Gentleman's request, made during the Second Reading of the Bill, with regard to the question whether Sunday should or should not be treated as one of the three waiting days for the purposes of sickness benefit. I have put down an Amendment simply to raise that question and in order to secure uniformity, though not with a desire to press the Amendment in that particular form. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that it was 3352 a question which ought to be raised in Committee, and that the Government would sympathetically consider the matter in the event of it being raised.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I have starred an Amendment on that point, and the hon. Member can raise his point when we come to that.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I should not like the Members of the Committee to complain of the Financial Secretary for having starred a fairly good number of Clauses. One sometimes feels on a Grand Committee that to get up and make suggestions is useless, because you get a Minister who is adamant and you feel that all your work, and, perhaps, your special knowledge, are thrown away. That has not been so in this Committee. We have had a sympathetic Minister with a desire to get Amendments from the Committee and to incorporate them in the Bill. Subject to the reservation made by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Forster), that is all I have to say.