HC Deb 15 August 1913 vol 56 cc3416-9

"There shall be added to Part I. of the First Schedule to the principal Act, which specifies the classes of employment which is employment within Part I. of the Principal Act, the following paragraph:— (e) Employment under any local or other public authority except such as may be excluded by a Special Order.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The necessity for this Clause arises out of a recent decision of the Irish Courts. The question which was submitted to them briefly was whether the employés of local boards were insurable persons and the Master of the Rolls decided in the case, which concerned the South Dublin Union, that there was no contract of service, basing his decision upon the fact that the local authorities did not employ these persons solely, as their appointment was subject to the approval of the Local Government Board and they could not dismiss them without that approval. It was therefore held that they were not employed persons within the meaning of the Act. The words at the end of the Amendment with reference to "Special Orders" are intended to protect the interests of other persons in the employment of boards of guardians and local authorities. I take it the Commissioners will by Special Order exclude those persons who, under ordinary circumstances, would not be insurable or would be excluded under the Public Bodies Order. As to those who will be admitted there are a great number of tradesmen in Ireland who occasionally come into the employment of the boards of guardians and local authorities, such as gardeners and carpenters, and there are also farm labourers. They may be in that employment for one, two or three years. They are not insured during that time and they are under the disadvantage when they come out of their employment that in order to get into insurance they must pay up all arrears. It is mainly in the interests of those people that we are asking the Committee to accept this Clause.


I think that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury ought to give us the views of the Government. What is the meaning of the words "except such as may be excluded by Special Order"? It seems to me to give the Insurance Commissioners an absolute power to exclude by Special Order any employés of a local or public authority. I may say, personally, that whilst I join in the tributes paid to the administration of the Insurance Commissioners, I am strongly opposed to their having these extended legislative and judicial powers. Administration is their proper sphere and not these legislative and judicial powers. As I understand the Clause, it will give them an absolute general power to exclude by Special Order the employés of any public or local authority. I think wider powers of that kind ought not to be given to the Insurance Commissioners.


What is the meaning of the words "or other public"? We have been told the justification for the use of the words "local authority." We all know what a local authority is. What sort of authority is contemplated by these words?


There has been no judicial decision in England, but the judicial decision which was given in Ireland has upset the principle upon which the Act was debated in the House of Commons. What we are seeking to do is to put the Act back into the position where it was before the decision was given, and to allow these persons to come in as insurable persons. On the assumption that they were insurable persons they have been to a large extent insured. They believed they were insurable. It is simply owing to the fact that they were not set out in the Act as insurable that the difficulty has arisen. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Wilton (Mr. Bathurst), there are public authorities which are not local authorities, such as the Port of London Authority and Harbour Boards and various other authorities of that kind.


Could the right hon. Gentleman gives us an instance of a particular class who might be excluded by Special Order?


One class which occurs to me for the moment would be the dispensary doctors. As we understand, they would be in employment within the meaning of the Act, but it would be absurd to include them under compulsory insurance.


By going on with this Amendment you will be in a rather curious difficulty. Part I. shows which employment are employments within the meaning of the Act, and to this is to be added "employment under ally local or any other authority except such as may be excluded by a Special Order." Part II. contains the exceptions, "employment under the Crown or any local or other public authority where the conditions of service and the terms of employment are such as give equal benefits." In the one we have the granting of special exemptions, and the Crown is specially mentioned. In the other case we have not. It seems to me it might read, "employment under the Crown or any other local public authority," and that, just as in Part II. the Insurance Commissioners have to certify in order to enable these people to come under the Act, we ought to alter the Amendment so that persons who are employed under public local authorities may be included by Special Order rather than be excluded. Otherwise it seems to me that people who are not at the moment insured will immediately have to become insured, because their occupation has suddenly without notice become an insurable occupation. Would it not be better not to make them insurable until after the Special Order. They would at least get notice before they were brought into insurance, whether they liked it or not.


These are insured persons. It was understood they were insurable persons. The question arose whether there was a contract of service with the local authority. Some of these people have had cards and have been putting on stamps from the beginning.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.


The next new Clause on the Paper (Exemption) appears by accident. It should not be there.