§ "Maternity benefit shall in that 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,' or some woman nominated by her, after the first word 'payment,' in that paragraph; and Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen shall be repealed."
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I beg to, move "That the Clause be read a second time."
I shall move this Clause in a very few words, because many hon. Members will desire to speak. Although my name happens. to be first on this Amendment it does not in the least preclude Members from making suggestions upon it, and if they make good suggestions to improve the Amendment I shall be the first person to vote in favour of them. If this Amendment is adopted the principal Act would read: "Subject to the provisions of this Act the benefits, conferred by this part of this Act upon insured persons are:—and payment to the mother or some woman nominated by her in the case of the confinement of the wife, etc., etc.—a sum of 30s. called maternity benefit." I very much hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. I believe that maternity benefit was one o the benefits which very largely induced the people of the country and the House of Commons to accept the Chancellor of the Exchequer's scheme. I think that maternity benefit was one of the benefits which struck the popular imagination, and I think the reason it struck the popular imagination was because it was felt that this benefit was going wholly to the mother, and not only for the benefit of the mother but for that of the child also. I do 3099 feel that there ought not to be any leakage in the 30s. maternity benefit. I feel very strongly that the whole of this benefit ought to go without any doubt whatsoever to the mother for her benefit and for the child's. If you look at the original Act, Section 19, it is quite evident that the man who receives the maternity benefit need not hand the whole of it over. All the Section says is that the man has to maintain the woman during the period of confinement, and that if he does not properly provide for her, certain penalties ensue. It does not in the least say that he has to hand over the whole of the maternity benefit. Section 19 simply says that it is the duty of the husband to make adequate provision to the best of his power for the maintenance and care of his wife during the confinement.
Therefore, nothing occurs to prevent the husband, even morally, if he thinks that 15s. is enough, from spending the other 15s. on himself. I do feel that it is important that the whole of this benefit should go to the woman without the slightest doubt about it at all. Under the existing system there is a considerable amount of leakage. I have a great many cases here which I do not propose to give to the Committee, because I do not want to make out that there are a great many men in the country who would hold back the money in cases of urgency. I do not want to make out that case at all. As a matter of fact I have various cases in front of me here which go to show that in certain instances the maternity benefit has been kept back, and has not gone to the benefit of the mother. After all, it is an enormous temptation to a very poor man who is suddenly given 30s., possibly the largest sum in cash that he has ever had in his life, to spend it on his own account before it gets into the hands of the mother. I should like to mention that the Association of Approved Societies, I believe, are very much in favour of this Amendment. The Association of Approved Societies is the association of which my hon. Friend the Member for Wilton, is Chairman. I may also mention that the Women's Co-operative Guild with 30,000 married working women members is also in favour of this proposal. I am also right in saying that the Domestic Servants Association with no less than 67,000 members is in favour of it. I have their letter here. Therefore, I very much hope, without detaining the Committee, that the Government will very seriously consider this question. I do not think that it is at 3100 all unreasonable, for reasons which I need not go into, to say that it may be handed to the mother or some other person. I do not think it would be at all advisable that the money should get into the hands possibly of some man not related to the woman by ties of blood. I think it would be very much better that the alternative should be some woman friend, who possibly, might be recommended by the approved society. Anyhow, I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer and I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Perhaps, in preceding the few remarks I have to offer on the subject, it would be to the convenience of the Committee if I made a general statement in regard to new Clauses. We have got our twelve Clauses in the Bill, as we proposed, and I should like to express my gratitude to all parties. As to the new Clauses, there may be some in which I shall have to say that if money is involved we cannot bear the expense. There may be some, which, after careful consideration with my advisors, I should think were deliberately harmful, and I should have to tell the Committee in that case that the Government could not accept them. As to the majority of the new Clauses I do not want to put anything in the nature of what is called Government pressure, if there is such a thing, upon any Member. I want to see if we cannot get, in the time at our disposal, as much non-controversial and generally agreed matter into the Bill, as it stands, as possible. This is emphatically one of the Clauses in which I think every Member of the Committee should make up his own mind very carefully. Speaking not now on the part of the Government—because I believe my right hon. Friend who is sitting in front of me takes a somewhat different view to myself in the matter—but speaking as an ordinary Member, I have just one or two observations to make upon the Clause introduced by the hon. Gentleman. It is quite true, as we all know, that there is a certain amount of abuse of maternity benefit and that ought to be remedied. The extent of that abuse is a very doubtful matter, and is a subject of controversy, because when you are dealing with 18,000 cases a week where maternity benefits are received there is no difficulty at all in getting 3101 a considerable number of very bad cases which really bear no large percentage relationship to the general total, and I think the Committee should consider very seriously how far they are prepared to tear up completely the existing system for the sake of meeting these exceptions, or whether these exceptions could not be more satisfactorily met by dealing with them in some other [...]ashion.
I have no doubt at all in my own mind that the giving of the maternity benefit to the husband, in the vast majority of cases, is resulting in the sum being expended to the benefit of the wife and child, and I believe, from some knowledge I have of the class of insured persons, that if the particular Amendment suggested by the hon. Member was carried there would be a very great resentment among the working-class population of this country. Not only does he wish to say, as I think ought to be said, that maternity benefits ought to be administered for the benefit of the mother and child, but he wishes to prevent the husband under any circumstances, getting the maternity benefit, from even acting as a transmitter between the approved society and the wife, although the wife ex-hypothesi at the moment, is in bed and cannot get up herself. I should like to know rather more of what might happen as to the other women who are to be dragged in as intermediaries between the approved society and the wife. I should think that in 99 cases out of 100 the proper intermediary would be the husband himself. There is, however, a real desire on the part of the Committee to meet these difficult cases. I believe they could be met if you laid down certain definite propositions. I think there is an Amendment later on the paper which perhaps would partly meet the difficulty. It is in the name of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts)—page 16, first Amendment—which I think could be considered in connection with the suggestion of the hon. Member who has just moved this Amendment. That Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich allows approved societies, if they care to do so, and if they think the maternity benefit might be abused, to pay the sum to the wife, the latter's certificate to count, 3102 and the receipt of the mother to be regarded as an efficient discharge to the society. That, I suggest, is an important point that should be considered. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who is going to move it afterwards will, instead of preserving his right, give his observations upon it in in connection with this debate. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Salisbury that it should be definitely set out that the maternity benefit should be administered for the benefit of the mother and the child, and if we could put some such form as that in in connection with the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich I think it would be less open to objection on the ground of what I may call panic legislation that the deliberate attempt to prevent the husband touching the maternity benefit under any circumstances, from even acting as an intermediary between the society and the mother. These, I say, are only my own observations on this rather difficult matter, and I commend them to the attention of the Committee.
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
I am speaking entirely for myself in the observations I am about to offer. I have been assured that the remarks I will be called upon to make will be unpopular in character. For that I never care. If I think they ought to be made I never lack the courage to make them. For my own part, mainly for reasons I adduced in reference to a previous Amendment, I have a real abhorrence against the unnecessary intervention of the State between a man and his wife. I believe abuses do exist. I think, however, their number is greatly exaggerated. I am not satisfied that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman will avoid the abuses.
Those who have an intimate acquaintance with working-class life can conceive that abuses will arise in both directions. For my part I think it would be a regrettable thing if Parliament were to lay down that the husband shall not have any hand in administering a benefit of this character. I believe that in general practice the woman does get the benefit of this 30s. I believe that already it has done incalculable good, and I think it would be a positive disaster for the State to set up irritating conditions between a man and his wife. So far as I am able to ascertain, the great mass of married women would just as strongly resent as I do the setting up of this unnecessary provision. 3103 I think also we ought to have regard to this fact, that although the State is now making a very wide provision of this character, it is not quite novel. One large friendly society has been bestowing this benefit for many years and in the experience of that society it never had that benefit abused, and. I think for you now to say to them, "although you have done great good for years past although there has been no abuse arising in your experience, for the future you must depart from your customary practice," I say that would be an arbitrary proceeding, to which I am not inclined to give my personal sanction. I do not think we ought to legislate against sex. I am as keenly desirous as anyone can be to set up conditions which will ensure that the objects of this benefit shall be fully carried out. I want to avoid a man being able to devote any portion of the 30s. to unwise expenditure. Equally I want to avoid a woman who is placed in that ext timely delicate position at the time being subjected to temptations, whereby the 30s. would not be expended on her behalf in the best possible fashion. These temptations will exist, but you are not going to remove the real evil by an Amendment of this character. All these dangers, all these abuses are part of the great poverty problem. What will happen in actual administration? You will have the delegate of the friendly society or the trades union, the secretary or the sick visitor, the person who is responsible for paying out the benefits going to the house. The man is there, and almost invariably where these cases arise, it is a question of a one or two-roomed tenement. There is the man, and you have got to instruct the agent to sweep the man aside, although he is invested with the moral and legal responsibility and say to him, "You are unworthy to be trusted with this benefit and therefore we must call into requisition some woman who has no interest, perhaps, apart from a purely pecuniary character." [An HON. MEMBER: "The neighbour."] Yes, you may trust the neighbour but you cannot trust the husband. I do feel very strongly on this matter, whether what I say is unpopular or not. I do resent unnecessary interference in a statutory manner as between a man and his wife.
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
I said unnecessary interference. I recognise there is an occasion arising out of experience for some change being made, but I think we may very well entrust the approved societies with the ability to administer this benefit. I know in some cases the secretary of these societies has entered fully into the spirit of the Act and has taken steps to ensure that husbands do not squander the money, and that it shall be devoted to the intended purpose. If we proceed on these lines, it will be the safest and wisest course for us to adopt. The new Clause I have put down does allow that course to be pursued. Societies which have been paving to the wife direct are under the apprehension that they are doing something which lays them open to action, and therefore, we propose that where the societies believe that it is proper and necessary that the benefit should be paid direct to the wife and that the husband should be made to stand apart in this matter, then the signature of the wife for the receipt of the money shall be sufficient—in respect to the administration of the Act. I have generally expressed my view and I have done so I hope with due appreciation of the sympathy which animates those who are pursuing a contrary line to myself. I am entirely with them in their desire to ensure that the benefit shall be administered as Parliament intended it should be. Nevertheless, I think I may urge one further point. It is far too early to make such a drastic alteration as this. If subsequent experience proves that it is necessary, it should be only changed as the result of further inquiry. I respectfully suggest that it is quite too early for us to have any definite data to guide us in this matter.
At a quarter past one the Committee adjourned till two o'clock, when the proceedings were resumed.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I have had an opportunity of thinking over some of the remarks made on this Amendment, and I should like to say that I should be quite prepared to substitute in the Amendment the word "person" for the word "woman," so as to make it read "to the mother or some other person nominated by her." I thought I would just say that, because it might possibly shorten the discussion.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I am sorry that even the suggested modification does not help me to support the particular proposal which is now before the Committee. I realise that sentiment may enter on one side or 3105 the other into the consideration of the matter, but I test the proposal in the first place in this way. I do not think that there is a married Member of this Committee who, if he were making some special provision to meet the circumstances arising from his wife's confinement would not resent being told that he should put that money into a money box and hand the key over to his wife. I do not think that there is one of us who would not bitterly resent that suggestion, and I am not prepared to act as if the men of the insured population required some different enactment by law than that which we consider needful for ourselves. There is another very serious consideration. The responsibility of providing for the woman at that time is the husband's, and we do not, of course, propose to take away from him his legal responsibility to provide for her. Amongst other things, he ought to provide her with proper attention, he ought to provide her with a midwife or with a doctor, and, even if the wife engages the nurse or the doctor, the man is responsible to pay those people. Having by law said that it is a legal responsibility resting upon the husband to make the provision, it appears, as the Amendment is now suggested, that the only person who is to be prohibited from touching the money is the husband.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I proposed to say "to the mother or some person nominated by her," and that brings in the husband.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. If the wife chooses to nominate the husband, he may take the money—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes"]—but it is to be the wife's privilege of saying whether that is to be done or not.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I agree that not only in the insured classes but in every class of the community there are exceptional husbands who do not treat their wives properly at a time of this sort. You are now recognising the difficulty of the exceptional woman, but you have, I think, forgotten the difficulty of the exceptional man. If there are husbands who are not to be trusted with money, there are also wives who are not to be trusted with money. What about the thrifty husband who has made this provision? If the wife, who in law is not responsible for any debt she incurs in connection with her confinement, is to have the 30s., or some other woman or 3106 man whom she chooses to nominate, the money could be used to pay some surreptitious debt incurred by her without the knowledge of the husband. It might be ill spent. Then the husband within ten days or a fortnight would receive a bill from the doctor or the nurse, and it would be no answer for him to say, "Oh, but the 30s. was given to my wife." I cannot help thinking that those responsible for this Amendment are not doing women as a class an injury by bringing it forward. Has it really come to this, that a certain number of British working men's houses are so conducted that you have to earmark each penny, or each loaf that goes into them, and to say that, by law, it belongs to the wife, the husband, or the children? I hope not. I do not think that time has arrived. The question of the economical position of women is a big one. It may be the time will come when we shall have to make women absolutely independent, economically, of their husbands, but so long as the family life is run as it now is, such a proposal as this would, in fact, be deemed, although not so intended, to be an insult by most of the working men of this country. It is one which we should not impose upon them, unless we are satisfied that there are really so many exceptional cases that they ought to be dealt with.
We have had some exceptional cases put before us by circular. In one case it was said that the man used the 30s. in order to run away with another woman. What was the complaint? That he ran away, or that he stole the 30s.? It seems to me an extremely paltry thing to do to take the 30s. and say, because there are such cases as that, we are to step in between the working-man husband and his wife and say that certain things shall by law be done between with regard to the 30s. I submit that that would be a great mistake. The Amendment suggests that approved societies may decide this point. I have no objection at all to men and women who are members of these societies deciding whether the man or woman shall be paid the money, but it must, in my view, be a universal rule. I do not think it would do to leave it to the secretaries or agents to decide in individual cases whether the man or the woman is to be paid the money. I think if working men themselves, in their own societies, choose to make a rule that this benefit shall be paid to any particular person they have a perfect right to do so, because people need not join a society if they object to any such rule, but for Parliament to come in and tell my 3107 Constituents that they cannot be entrusted with money which the State had enabled them to provide in order to meet their own legal responsibilities will arouse great opposition, and for one, am not prepared to use this method of protecting the minority.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The hon. Member has used an extraordinary argument. He tells us, on the one hand, that we are appealed to by the women of this country. We learn on authority that is absolutely unimpeachable that there are cases—and I know of some from my own knowledge—where abuse of the worst sort has happened in regard to this payment—where a wrong has been done to the woman. What is the argument of the hon. Member? We are not forsooth to redress that wrong. The House of Commons, which is legislating for the good of the whole community, must not, we are told, do this thing, because it might be interpreted as an insult to a particular class of the community. The hon. Member, however, says he would leave to the friendly societies themselves to make a general rule. He allows that it would not be sufficient to leave it to the secretaries or other officials to decide the point in particular eases. In saying that he absolutely overturns the course which is proposed by the hon. Member for Norwich, which is to leave it to the societies. The Member says that an absolute rule must be laid down, and that the officials must not judge in particular cases.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I want to make myself quite clear. What I mean is, that it should not be left to individual agents, or individual secretaries, to decide in each individual case, bin: it is preferable that the society, as a whole, should pass a rule applicable to all members of the society.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I do not suggest there should be a general meeting each time; all I suggest is that there should be a rule by the society that the benefit should be paid either to the man or to the woman, and that it should not be left to individual agents to deal with individual cases.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
That is exactly what I said. The hon. Member agrees it should not be decided in individual eases by officials of the society, but says there should be a general rule, and thereby he overthrows the proposal of the hon. Member for Norwich. If such a general rule is adopted will it not 3108 equally be as much an insult to the members of the society as for this House to lay down the provision here? We, as a Committee, ought to decide this question here. We have here a crying evil and a growing wrong done to women which we ought to put right, and I do not think it would be interpreted for one moment by the better men of the working classes as an insult if we lay down this regulation. The hon. Member asks if we ourselves consider it wrong for a wife to have the administration of some property or some money which she can deal with on her own responsibility. I think everyone of us would be very sorry indeed if he were not perfectly satisfied that his wife had a certain share of the income with which she could deal absolutely independently of himself, and if she had to draw upon that income and could only delegate him to draw in her name, she herself, so far from considering it an insult, would quite approve of it. I am sure none of us would feel that our domestic life was properly regulated unless we were certain that our wives had some income to deal with independently of ourselves. That is all that is asked in this case. This burden which the rules of Providence have laid upon this one sex gives them a claim to the right of administration of any benefit given for the great duty performed. It gives them a claim that such benefit should be in their hands and not in the hands of those who, possibly, if evilly disposed and bad men, may disuse it, but who, if they are right-minded husbands, will be very glad that the wife shall have the administration of the money. I fervently hope that the Committee will act upon what is, to my mind, the only reasonable course to follow, and which will give to the mothers of England the rights they are demanding.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am rather glad that on this occasion I can give whole-hearted support to a. Resolution which comes from a Conservative member. Of all questions, this is one which can be looked at apart from party, apart from the interests of the Government, and apart from the interests of any particular kind of approved society. As hon. Members know, I sometimes have the duty of speaking for the National Conference of Industrial Insurance Approved Societies, whose members number over five millions, representing every nationality. On this occasion I have their authority to say that they do not wish to influence the Committee in the slightest degree. They consider it purely a question for the politicians who try to interpret the views of the country. They will work it any way. There is no difficulty 3109 as far as they are concerned. They have given me a perfectly free hand, and, therefore, on this occasion I am going to speak somewhat as the Member for Pontefract unmuzzled. I am one of the few men in this room whose mother, if the Act had been in operation when they were born, would have drawn the maternity benefit. I know a few, but there are not many of us. I want to appeal to hon. Members not to look at this so much as man and wife, as from the mother's standpoint. My father, as a workman, never would have taken it as a slight upon him that my mother should have the 30s., and they are not voicing the working classes who suggest that. It is a maternity benefit. It is the intention, I should have thought, of everybody that the mother should enjoy it—this 30s. I do not agree in the least with the hon. Member (Mr. G. H. Roberts), who talked of it as the man's property. It is not in any way. It is hers. When he suggests that the State is stepping in between man and wife, I say it will do if it follows the hon. Member. This belonging to the woman, unless we step in by our regulations and laws and insist that the man shall draw the money, it will go to its natural home, namely, the woman's purse. Surely the State should not step in, as the hon. Member suggests, between man and wife, and say that although this is her benefit it must be paid to him! The man has not paid for this benefit. It is a joint scheme in which the man pays 4d., the employer 3d., and the State roughly 2d., and the employers and the State paying 5d. out of the 9d. are entitled to a voice as to where id. a week of it shall go. Maternity benefit costs a 4.d. a week. All the other benefits are drawn by the man—temporary sickness, permanent invalidity, all will he paid to the man for him to spend. One benefit only out of all the list in the Bill was specially apportioned to the woman, and designed by the State for her, and I appeal to the Committee not to arrest it on its way. I speak very feelingly on this question. Many employers of labour in welcoming the Act and in paying their contributions, have been influenced by the fact that the maternity benefit was in. I am at the head of a concern which employs 2,000 trade unionists, and my colleagues did not at all like this large contribution; but the one thing that reconciled us to it was that we were helping to stamp out consumption from the national standpoint, and also we were providing maternity benefit for the homes of our workers. When a man goes down a mine, as our employés do, and his wife is pregnant, she does not know whether 3110 she will ever see the breadwinner again, and it is a satisfaction to the employer to know that he is contributing into the scheme, and recognising that women whom he does not see are receiving this benefit.
I have one other warning to give. I hope the Committee will not be led away by the idea of leaving the choice to the approved society. I appeal very strongly in the interests of the women on that point. If you leave it to a subordinate official, the tendency will be to pay the first person he meets—the one he can get a receipt from easiest. If you put it upon him to make a selection of character—if the approved societies are asked to pay to the man where he is a good character, and to the woman where they suspect he is a bad character, it will not work. You cannot expect the societies to stigmatise numbers of workers as unfit to receive them. They do not want that ordeal, and they will not face it. Surely it is her benefit. Surely she can be trusted. If she misspent it, after all she is misspending her own money; but if the man misspends it, he is misspending his wife's money, and that is all the difference in the world. Even if there was an equal number—I do not say there would be—of mistakes made in wrong expenditure, if the woman had sole control or the man, that is not a reason for withholding her benefit, because no one can defend the misappropriation of a woman's benefit, not by her but by man. I look upon it purely as a sex question. I have gone back in my mind to the time when I was born. I have tried to picture the state of Lancashire, which was recovering from the cotton famine, when nearly all the operatives—and my parents were cotton operatives—were suffering from insufficient food. We have all had mothers. I appeal to the Committee not to look at it from the man and wife standpoint, but to ask theme selves whether the mother is not the proper person to spend her own money.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I rise to support this Amendment. At the same time, in following all the speeches, I have felt that the Debate has been conducted in the best possible temper, and as each speech has been delivered I have been greatly impressed by it. I was particularly struck by the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. G. H. Roberts), though finally I failed to agree with him. The argument on which he based his speech was not entirely sound. He says it throws a certain slur upon the husband to deprive him of the privilege of handling this money, but no slur can accrue, because the money was never his. This is like manna dropped 3111 from heaven, and he has no more right to feel that any slur is placed upon his character than if some outside person left a legacy entirely to the wife for her benefit. The money is the wife's, and that if it be a slur on the husband that he should not be allowed to touch money which is not his, surely with far greater force it is a slur upon the wife not to be allowed to use money which is hers. Then with regard to the alternative scheme that the approved societies shall decide, I think the arguments of the hon. Member (Mr. Booth) is absolutely overwhelming, because if there be a slur upon the husband, what will be the position of an approved society, which has to say o one husband, "You are worthy to touch this money," and to another, "No, we cannot trust you with thirty shillings." You must consider also that in nearly all these cases it is the husband who has the greatest influence with the approved societies, and that his word would prevail. If there is any odium at all in refusing to allow the husband to touch this money, let us here, as a Committee of Parliament, once and for all take that odium upon our shoulders and then the matter flows automatically, and by Statute it is determined not in one individual case but in all cases, so that all possibility of odium in any one particular case is entirely removed.
§ Dr. ADDISON
This question becomes a great deal mixed up with the so-called sex considerations, and we are inclined to get ourselves away from the actual facts of life. I certainly think the number of husbands who abuse this benefit is exceedingly small. I quite think that if the first proposal of the hon. Member were adopted it might lead to all kinds of undesirable practices. Many times I myself have seen Mrs. Gamp's beer jug at the bottom of the bed, and if Mrs. Camp should be authorised to get this money—I am not speaking of properly qualified midwives but of the neighbourly woman who serves in poor districts—it is open to abuse. We shall not remove the abuse by altering the words "in this Act." The suggestion of my hon. friend would not do at all. It would not do for the society to have to decide whether it should be for the man or the woman. We must take upon ourselves that responsibility. It would be very unfair to throw upon the society the burden of such a decision. Personally, I do not like the words of the hon. Member's Amendment.
§ Dr. ADDISON
However, I can quite see that there is a sufficient number of cases where it is open to abuse, and it is necessary for something to be done to prevent that abuse as far as we can. The money is intended for the benefit of the wife, and she ought to have it. I do not think that anybody can fairly say that it is the man's because he paid for it. It is only a halfpenny a week, and if he is paid eightpence halfpenny a week benefit out of the whole ninepence no one can say that he has paid for this. So that there is no validity in that argument. Morally, it belongs to the woman. Therefore, I think that the best way of dealing with this is to adopt a form of words which should make it quite clear that we intend that it shall be for the benefit of the woman and that we should place the responsibility upon the society of administering it for her benefit. In the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Alden) which appears on the following page, there are the words "maternity benefit shall be treated as a benefit of the mother." I think that some words to that effect would be desirable, and we should really get away from the question as to whose property it is.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I do not think that it is necessary to try to settle it. If we settle it in words here it will not make any difference as to what is going to happen outside. It is a benefit to the woman and her child, and should be treated as such. Instead of racking our brains to invent a form of words which shall say that it is either the man's or the woman's benefit what we should say is: how this money has got to be used. I think that the words of my hon. Friend meet this case. I hope that the Government will be able to accept some words to that effect. That would mean that in Section 18 (1) of the Act the words "in any other case the benefit shall be treated as a benefit for her husband" certainly ought to come out. The benefit is intended for the woman and her child. I would like to omit those words and to insert some such words as those of my hon. Friend.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am speaking to this Amendment, but I understood from the 3113 ruling of the chairman that we could speak on the general question. If the hon. Member's Amendment means anything it means that we are going to alter the words to which I have referred in Section 18 (1). I think that the words "for her husband" should come out, and that we should say that it should be treated as a benefit for the wife or administered for her benefit. I do not think that any one of the three Amendments on the Paper puts the matter in the precise form in which it ought to be. I have not myself any form of words to suggest, but if the Government would undertake, if it is the sense of the Committee, to introduce words to that effect I should be satisfied. But in any case I think that the words "for her husband" should come out of Section 18 (1).
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I think that the Committee is fairly well agreed as to what it would like to do. The difficulty is to devise a form of words which would, first of all, declare our intention, but it is also quite as important to see that the administration of this 30s. is efficient. The speeches that have been delivered seem to have been divided into those two sections. We have an hon. Member opposite (Sir Henry Craik) delivering a most glowing, eloquent speech from the clouds without any reference to the difficulties of administration. We quite follow this hope and we appreciate his fervid oratory. But while we agree with his sympathies to the full extent, he did not. contribute any proposal or any idea as to how this was going to be carried out. What the Committee has got to do is to combine the two if we can manage it. I should be the very last person to resist the appeals that have been made to us, that the woman, the mother of the child, should have some sort of statutory recognition as in some respects at any rate the owner of the benefit. But when we come to say that, as I trust we shall, if we content ourselves with that declaration, we have not gone very far. The amended proposal of the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment is undoubtedly much better than the original proposal. I am bound to confess that I have got a great suspicion of third parties coming in. I can quite see the one point where the third party might in many cases be necessary, and it is this: we can declare that the benefit is the mother's benefit.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
But she may nominate her neighbour, and that is the third person. My hon. Friend does not follow quickly enough the point I was going to make. Where a third person can come in usefully is here. We can declare that the benefit is either the property of the husband, in which case no third person is necessary, provided he is present, because he can sign the receipt himself and the receipt can be taken as a discharge, or we can declare it is the property of the mother. Now if the 30s. are going to be handed to the mother right away after the birth of the child—a very desirable thing, in a great many cases at any rate—then we have to hand that money over either to the husband or to a third person. I think we ought to be very careful before we allow this third person to receive the money and to sign a receipt for it, which would enable the responsible society or the agent of the responsible society to say, "Well this fully meets all my obligations; I have handed it over to a third person." I dm quite sure that if the hon. Gentleman really knew—and I am sure he does to a large extent—the peculiar circumstances under which in so many homes this event takes place, he would see how enormously wide he is opening the door for maladministration. That is the chief difficulty that I have in accepting the method of administration which he proposes, although I admit it is a very great improvement upon his original proposal. Let us think for a moment of the question of maladministration. I have here a letter from the Women's Labour League which has submitted a memorandum on various points in this Bill so far as they concern women. This League says, "We see that the question of maternity benefit to the wife instead of to the husband has been raised. This is not a matter on which we feel very strongly, as we have noticed that bad cases have been dealt with by the Courts fairly drastically. We know quite well that the selfish or drunken husband will find it a little more difficult to get hold of the money when it conies to the wife than he does today. Further, the point has been raised that what the money is wanted for is not to pay back rent, etc., but for the comfort and use of the mother, but we realise that when it is paid directly to the mother, there will be just the same likelihood of its going to pay rent or life insurance, etc., as there is now when it is technically paid to the husband. The wife may use it to relieve her 3115 mind of anxiety about the rent or anything else instead of using it for extra food, etc., for herself. The only way to prevent that would be to give the payment in kind, and that seems to us objectionable. Family needs are often just as important to the recovery of the mother as her own individual needs."
We think, therefore, that while there are no objections in principle to this Amendment, there are no very great inducements if it would cause any administrative difficulty. The situation is this: if that list of grievances which was issued when this agitation was started first of all is the real cause of the change, then hon. Members may be perfectly well assured that had this money been paid to the mothers instead of to the husbands we would have been able to have brought forth just as long a list of bad expenditures as this list with reference to the men. After all we regard this as a family benefit. That is how I prefer to put it. If we do that then it will not be the property of the mother exclusively. It will be the property of both, and then the only question we have to settle is what receipt can the responsible society accept for its discharge. We have tried to meet that point. We take away the property from the husband; we make that clear in our Amendment; then having made that clear we put in a proviso that a receipt from the mother will be a full discharge so far as the society is concerned. The Amendment I am referring to is that of the hon. Member for Norwich. I think it does make it clear, if not by declaration, then at any rate by operation, and we propose to move it as an Amendment to the new Clause which the hon. Gentleman had just moved. It will require to be slightly altered in the wording from that which appears on the Paper. The way I would advise my hon. Friend to move it is this: "Maternity benefit, when it is payable in respect of the husband's insurance, may be paid by the approved society, or the Insurance Committee concerned, as a benefit to the mother of the child, and not to the husband, and the receipt of the mother shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or Committee." This is the attempt we have made to combine the declaration of family property and the machinery of a safe receipt. I do not think there is a difference of opinion upon this matter, but whatever form of words the Committee finally settle upon I do beg of it to try and settle both questions, whether by declaration or implication does not matter to me much. We must consider 3116 not only who is to get the money, but under what circumstances the money is going to be administered. We must see that it is administered in such a way that the baby and the mother get the maximum benefit from it.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
May I ask my hon. Friend if he would explain whether the effect of the Amendment he has suggested would not be to preclude the possibility of the husband ever receiving the money?
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
No, I do not think it would have that effect, but we must very carefully consider it. As the law now stands, the husband gets it, and no receipt is acceptable except the husband's receipt. The effect of this Amendment is to attach it as a benefit to the mother.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
As to the words "not to the husband," I can see that there is a possibility of a double meaning being attached to them, and we shall have to consider the words. What we really mean is that it may be paid over either to the mother or to the husband, and we legalise the mother's receipt.
I believe we on this side, and the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, desire exactly the same thing. We want to secure just in these extremely rare cases where theme is reason to fear that the benefit may be misapplied, where there is a risk that the woman may not receive the benefit, that, in fact, the benefit should accrue to the woman. Of the three propositions that are before the Committee, I am going to support the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson), because I believe that it does cover the ground better than any of the alternative propositions. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that we want two things. One is a declaration as to whose property the benefit is, and for what purpose the benefit is given. We want, in the second place, powers to carry it out, administratively, in accordance with that declaration. I do not mind the description that it is a family benefit. I rather like that, but it is not in the Amendment proposed by the Labour party. I believe myself it is better to describe it as the woman's benefit, payable if you like by the husband's contribution. That is immaterial. No one can say that the working woman does not contribute 3117 just as much to national insurance as any man does, simply because it happens to be deducted from the man's earnings. I agree with the hon. Member for Hoxton (Dr. Addison), that there must be a consequential Amendment in Section 18 (1) to make it clear that the benefit shall be treated as the benefit of the mother although the contribution is paid by her husband. We want two declarations. First, that it is the woman's benefit, and the declaration in Section 18 should be altered. Then we come to administration and the question as regards administration is, Shall we leave it to the society to say whether in any given place the man is to be trusted or not? That is a necessary discrimination, if we accept the Amendment of the Labour party. That is a discrimination which I think is hardly necessary or practicable, and which ought to be avoided if it possibly can.
What then is left? What is left, as a matter of fact, is the difference between the two Amendments. My hon. Friend's Amendment requires that the woman shall make a nomination. I think she will nominate her husband in 999 out of 1,000 cases. I have not a sanguine hope that anything which we will do can be a protection in the cases where it is most needed. But still, we ought to give an opportunity to her to nominate someone else than her husband in that one case out of 1,000. My hon. Friend has altered the word "woman" into "person." I confess I was largely responsible for the original form of my hon. Friend's Amendment. I originally suggested that he should put in "woman," but I am quite convinced now that that is the wrong form of words and that "person" should be substituted for "woman" The difference between us now is that either the woman has to nominate or to give a receipt. The Labour party's Amendment suggests that she should give a receipt and that her receipt should discharge the society. It does not matter to me which it is. I do not think it really amounts to very much whether it is a receipt or nomination. It means that some actual step has to be taken by the woman in order to enable someone else to receive the benefit for her, and whether this form is "I nominate——" or whether it is a receipt for 30s., it requires her signature. If that is agreed, what have we got which is really practical? We have iii my hon. Friend's Amendment the declaration that is required, and the administrative step which is required, that it shall be paid either to the woman or else to whomsoever she nominates. I believe we are all 3118 agreed as to what we desire to be done and I believe the Amendment practically carries it out.
I must apologise for the few remarks I am going to make; but as I have had some little experience in these cases I venture to say a word or two. I strongly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. I cannot conceive how anybody who really looks into the facts of the case can oppose it. You have got a woman who is going through the confinement and she is suffering all the physical and mental pain and surely she is the person to be consulted. The money, according to this Amendment, is to be handed to her. If she has got a decent husband, a man who looks after her and respects her, it is a thousand to one she will ask him to collect the money and see that the money is properly spent. I do not think it is going to cure every bad case, but on the other hand, if she has a bad husband, she will be in a better position to know the man or woman whom she will select for the money, and see that it is applied for her benefit and for the benefit of the child. I have seen many many cases. It is all very fine for us to be afraid of speaking of the working classes. I have nothing to say about the working classes. As a rule they are most kind to their wives and families, but there are undoubtedly cases where they treat their wives very badly indeed. [An HON. MEMBER: "And rich men too."] I am speaking of the insured person, and I have known cases like this happen where a woman has put by sixpence a week for almost a year in order that she should have sufficient to pay a doctor. I have known cases where the husband has got hold of this money and drunk the money and left her without medical attendance at all. That is one kind of man, but I am quite sure that no respectable working man for one moment would consider he was insulted because his wife was allowed to collect the money. She will also have the opportunity of making up her mind what doctor she will have. It may seem a small matter to us here, but I can assure the Committee that in no disease or complaint is it so necessary for the person concerned to have somebody in whom she will have confidence. Unless the woman can have the opportunity of knowing she has the money, she cannot get the doctor she wants. He may not be as good as the other doctor the husband would select for her, but he is the doctor she has confidence in and in these cases confidence has a great deal to do with it. The suggestion of the Member for Leicester is simply relegating 3119 what we ought to decide to the friendly societies. You may have a case where a man has had a quarrel with his wife or does nor treat her well. This case has to come before the lodge or club and they are to decide that this man is not fit to get the money and that it must be given to the wife. I think that the whole question is one that ought to be settled by the Act of Parliament, and we ought to say that where there is a bad husband the woman will be protected. I believe in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the matter will go on in the ordinary way, and the decent working man will not be a bit upset because the Act makes it necessary that the wife should get the money.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think we are agreed upon the principle, and perhaps it will save time if Members will address their remarks to the means by which it is to be carried out.
§ Mr. ALDEN
I think the matter has now been thoroughly discussed, although I cannot say that the Committee has made up its mind. There are many of us who are not quite clear as to what this new Clause ought to be. I really think it would be better not to decide to-day [HON. MEMBERS: "No, No"]. I honestly think that if two or three people could sit down together, they would be able to give us a form of words which would satisfy the whole Committee much more than what we will get by discussion. My objection to the new Clause moved by the Member for Leicester, or suggested by him, is to the word "may." I do not say that I have no other objections, but they are not so serious. I do object to the word "may," and that is why I have put in the new Clause I propose the provision that maternity benefit "shall" be treated as the benefit of the mother. I agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken, that it ought not to be left to the approved societies.
§ Mr. ALDEN
That amounts to very much the same thing. The approved society will have to decide in each case, and they will have to have a rule or regulation guiding themselves as to whether the 30s. should be really paid to the husband or the wife. I think it is rather hard lines on the approved societies to ask them to come to that decision. I think it is a matter we ought to decide. I should be perfectly prepared to support 3120 my hon. Friend if only he could see his way to substitute "shall" for "may." I do not believe there is anything else very much matters. I am certain the approved societies do want our guidance in this matter. I am quite convinced they want help in this matter, because there is just as much difference there as here. We are nothing more than average men, and we are divided on the point, and lots of working men are divided, and many of them take the view that this benefit ought, if possible, to be given and handed to the woman. They do not want anything to do with it or to be called into account in this matter. Plenty of working men take the view, "This is a benefit for my wife and I do not want to have it." There are plenty of men, or no doubt a good many, who would like to get some of this money, not necessarily for themselves or for their own use, but possibly for some use in connection with the household. I am perfectly persuaded that there are not many men in the approved societies who really object to this benefit being given to the wife. If it were made a necessity and laid down here that the benefits should be treated as a benefit of the mother. I believe that the men who are opposed to it would very shortly give way and be reconciled to it.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
So few of the Unionist Members have been lucky enough to catch your eye so far, I may be permitted to deal with the matter for a very few minutes. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) is so dexterous in balancing his arguments when be is in a somewhat difficult position that one does not quite know on which leg he stands. I quite endorse what he said that this thing must he decided not on the ground of sentiment, even though that was what guided the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), but on grounds of expediency. I say that in the highest degree it is expedient and necessary to insert in the words of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson), who introduced this Amendment with his usual tact, the principle that the maternity benefit is the woman's benefit. Those words must be laid down and that must be the principle on which the Committee must go. I will refer subsequently to the question of administration. I think it is only fair at once to dissociate myself, and I think my hon. Friends, from bringing any general charge against the insured class. It is not justified by the facts. I have here the experience of the Prudential Society which settles 2,500 of these claims per week, and 3121 they say, as far as can be judged, the average working man is acting generally justly towards his wife. That is the fact. I do not attach too much importance to the number of hard cases collected by the Women's Co-operative Guild, showing the necessity for maternity benefit being made the legal property of the mother, especially when they deal with the wholly exceptional instances of vice and crime. But there is one very suggestive case and that is the case where the money is often ear-marked for rent. That is very often done in the woman's interest as much as in the man's. But if you establish the principle of this being the woman's benefit, then the man will not be able to ear-mark any of it or promise any of it, as they are often forced to do, under threats by the landlord or the collector for rent. That is a very important thing. I do not say that you can prevent it wholly by adopting this new Clause, but I do say that once you establish the principle of law, the man will be fortified in refusing to give an undertaking that the money shall be paid in rent. That surely we as a Committee desire to establish.
I do not gather that the friendly societies, or many of them, have any great objection to the principle of this Amendment. I have received no protest or very strong expression of opinion on the point, though I believe some of them do favour the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich. When you come to the matter of administering the benefit, when you have established the principle, then, I quite agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, you want to get workable machinery. I am afraid it would be difficult to get any real expression or general expression from the society as a whole. I am afraid if you leave it entirely, especially without this preliminary guidance, to the friendly societies it means in most cases that the secretary or, still more, the visitor will have to decide it; but supposing that the man understands that it is the will of Parliament, as my hon. Friend proposes to make it, that this is the woman's benefit, and that in no case is the man paid, and. if you have it laid down and enforced by rule of the Insurance Commissioners, and they make enough regulations so that they can deal with this, then I think a great gain will have been made. But what I refuse to believe is that men will regard this as in any sense an insult. I believe that in most cases they look upon it as a protection against themselves in their weaker moments, not necessarily from moral causes, but from the difficulty of eking out their livelihood, 3122 and instead of paying it in rent, or to the tally-man or the tradesman. I think the Committee ought to be very slow, even if we adopt the Amendment, to endorse the charge which is made, no doubt in good faith, by the women, who have rather overstated the case in order to secure a necessary reform. I suggest that the hon. Member should lay down the principle of law in the first line, and afterwards to accept words to allow the friendly societies so far as is possible under regulations to carry the principle into effect.
§ Mr. DICKINSON
I do not want to go into the general question because it has clearly been thrashed out, and I cannot help feeling that a majority of the Committee have come to the conclusion that a change must be made. I hope we shall come to the Second Reading of this Clause very soon, and so be able to get on to the Amendments, because I think it very essential on this occasion that our efforts should not result in something about which there can be any doubt. We want something very dear. It seems to me that the only two points are whether the benefit should be to the husband or the wife. All that Parliament can do is to say that one or the other is to receive it. In the principal Act, we definitely went out of our way to say that this was to be given for the benefit of the husband. Parliament interfered in that respect and laid it down that in every case of a married woman the benefit should be the benefit of the husband. I think it is absolutely essential that we should definitely lay down that those words in Section 18 are to be repealed, and that the benefit must be for the benefit of the wife. Then, of course, the question of administration comes up, and of Amendment. I would suggest that we should come to a decision as to the Second Reading of the Clause, and we might also come to a decision upon the first words standing part. As far as I am able to fathom the feeling of the Committee, the majority accept the principle that the maternity benefit shall, in every case, be the mother's benefit. When we have got so far, then possibly it might be well for us to adjourn and consider whether anything else is required. I do not think that anything else is required. It seems to me, if we lay down the one principle that this is to be to the woman's benefit, we can leave it to the Friendly societies exactly as it is left at the present moment.
I understand that there are friendly societies which lay down a rule that in every case maternity benefit is to be paid to the 3123 woman, and that in those instances it has worked perfectly satisfactorily. Therefore, I think that if we pass the general principle and leave the manner of payment as I have suggested, the result will be what we desire, and the payment will be made by the friendly societies in the 'host reasonable way.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I sincerely hope that the hon. Member for Salisbury will keep to his Amendment. It seems to me to clear up the whole situation and to do what we desire, namely, to repeal that portion of the original Act and definitely make it clear that the maternity benefit is to be the mother's benefit and not the husband's. So far as the speech by the hon. Member for Leicester is concerned, he did not make his point at all clear—to me, at all events. He did not explain satisfactorily that his suggestion was in any way better or clearer or could be more easily worked than the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. He said that if the scheme proposed in this Amendment were carried there would be practical difficulties in the way, but he did not indicate at all clearly what those practical difficulties were. Nor did he make it clear to me that if there were practical difficulties they would be avoided by leaving the decision in the hands of the societies. It appears to me that if there are practical difficulties, and I have no doubt there are, they will be far greater if the decision is left to the societies themselves as the hon. Member for Leicester suggests. The hon. Member went on to make some suggestions which I did not understand, although I tried to follow him very closely, as to what would happen if this power of handing over the right of receiving the maternity benefit to a third person were given to the wife. He made some very vague suggestions which did not appear to me to have much value. I am strongly of opinion that the whole matter is far more clearly and effectively decided by the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. After all, we must take upon ourselves the responsibility, and not be always trying to shift it on to the friendly societies, whose position is difficult enough as it is. This is one of the occasions when I think we should make our position perfectly clear, and say that we believe definitely in the principle that so far as this benefit is concerned it should be regarded in future as belonging to the mother and not to the husband.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
My only reason in rising is that I am in charge of the Bill. 3124 Everyone wants something to be done; therefore, I think we could unanimously give this Clause a Second Reading immediately. When that has been done I understand that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Norwich will be taken as the first Amendment to the Clause. I should think that after the very long and interesting discussion that we have had Members of the Committee would be prepared to make up their minds as to which way they would vote on the point. If that Amendment is carried, it would become the substantive Motion; if it is rejected, hon. Members may pass the Clause of the hon. Member for Salisbury. I am very anxious that we should not carry on the discussion and start it afresh, perhaps with other Members present, on Monday. I have to warn the Committee that we, are not making anything like the progress which is necessary if we are to get the Bill through next week.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I take it that does not mean that we shall be unable to move to omit the words "or some person nominated by her"?
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
I beg to move to leave out all the words after "Maternity benefit shall in every case," and to insert the following: "when it is payable in respect of the husband's insurance may be paid by the approved society or the Insurance Committee concerned as a benefit to the mother of the child, and the receipt of the mother shall be a sufficient discharge to the society or committee." I think that most Members of the Committee have made up their minds now as to what they should do in respect of this Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have consulted the Chairman of Ways and Means, and we are perfectly in order in taking any Amendment after the first word.
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
I should have felt bound to challenge the previous Motion if the case had stood as the hon. Member for Pontefract wants to represent it. I think it was clearly understood that we should have an opportunity of moving this as an Amendment to the other. I want to avoid, if possible, this Committee legislating, as it were, against a whole sex in the community. The desire we have is that this maternity benefit shall not be admitted as the exclusive right of either the man or the woman, but shall be the property of the two conjointly. Certain societies have already administered the benefit in that particular way. They have exercised their discretion, and where they have felt that, by paying the benefit to the husband, it might not be effectively administered, they have taken upon themselves the responsibility of paying it directly to the woman. There is a legal doubt as to whether the action of these societies might not be challenged. I think that the adoption of this new Clause would safeguard that, and would, in my opinion, secure all that Members of the Committee generally agree upon. It is in that spirit I venture to move it.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I cannot possibly accept the Amendment that has now been moved by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I do not think it ought to be a doubtful point at all whether this benefit is to be the benefit of the husband or the benefit of the wife. Here we have a clear case, not of sentiment, as was suggested by a Member opposite, but, to my mind, a clear case of justice. Here is the wife who does an eminent service to the State, and it seems to me the maternity benefit belongs exclusively to her, and not to her husband. I cannot for one moment see that any insult is offered to the husband by the fact of its being recognised that this maternity benefit belongs to the wife. Take another case, which occurs in a different section of society. I do not think any insult is offered to a husband when a marriage settlement is made upon the wife. We are not considering whether cases of abuse may arise or may not arise. We are not concerned in considering cases of undesirable husbands, or undesirable wives. We ought to look upon this question from a much higher standpoint, namely, whether this maternity benefit ought to belong to the wife or to the husband. Now it has been suggested in 3126 the Amendment that has been moved that a discretionary power—to use the words of the hon. Gentleman opposite—is to be left to the friendly societies. I object altogether to any discretionary powers being left to a friendly society or to anybody else in this particular matter. We shall be throwing an onus of responsibility which I think the friendly society is unable to exercise if they are to determine whether, in any particular case, this benefit shall be given to the wife or to the husband. There the case of insult to the husband may arise, but if it is laid down by Parliament that in all cases this benefit shall accrue to the wife and not to the husband, then the matter will be perfectly clear.
There are one or two points which I would like to put to the Committee. I desire to say there is no single Amendment upon the whole of the Paper about which I feel more strongly than I do upon the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. Surely, this is a matter about which women know best, and we know the universal opinion expressed by all the women's societies who have given us advice in this matter—the Women's Co-operative Guild, the Domestic Servants' Society, and the others—is to the effect that this should be nut merely the benefit of the woman, but should actually be paid to her without any discretion on the part of the society. What I want, to point out is that this attempt to make the Clause permissive may rob it of the whole of its efficacy. After all, if you leave the discretion with the society, you enable a possible and unscrupulous member of that society to put undue pressure in order to deflect the benefit to himself, and there will be a great temptation to such unscrupulous persons to go so far as to bribe the official of the society responsible for this payment in order to prevent it reaching the wife. After all, in these cases, we are not dealing with the normal case where there is absolute confidence between husband and wife, and where the husband is a perfectly reputable person. What we have to do is, in the interests of the wife, to afford adequate protection in those cases which are not normal. I want particularly to refer to a case which has not been mentioned at all yet—that is the case of a man whose employment may be called of a migratory character, which takes him away from his wife very often for a considerable portion of the year. In such cases it is very unfair that the woman should not get the full benefit of the sum to which she is entitled immediately. Such cases are perfectly well 3127 known to my hon. Friends hailing from Ireland. A large number of potato raisers come over from Ireland to work in this country, leaving their wives, possibly in this condition, in their own country, and even in our own hop-picking districts, there are a large number of women or men separated from each other, and thus delay may be caused owing to the discretion exercised by the society in favour of making the payment to the husband rather than to the wife. The hon. Gentleman opposite said just now in support of his Amendment that according to his knowledge and experience there was one great society which never had this benefit itself. My answer to him is that the societies do not know, they have no means of knowing, when it is best to pay the wife, and there is no matter upon which a wife is more likely to be reticent than upon this particular subject. I say the knowledge in many cases will not reach the society, and the society ought not to have any discretion in the matter. If true justice is going to be done to the woman, payment ought to be made to her or to sonic person duly appointed on her behalf to receive the money.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I appeal to the Committee to come to a decision on this matter. I think every member of the Committee is fully seised of all the important points which have to be decided. Time is becoming a matter of urgency. If there were any points still requiring elucidation, I would not suggest we should come to a decision now, but I think the matter has been so fully discussed, we might take the vote immediately.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I just want to point out the dangerous power that the hon. Member's Motion confers. If the Committee are to judge upon that point alone, they would decide in favour of our Amendment. He raises a very important point in his Motion when he adds words to the effect "or some persons nominated by her."
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. The question is that instead of "the" after the words "not maternity," the words of the hon. Member for Norwich could be substituted. If they are carried that settles the point. If they are not carried, the hon. Gentleman can still 3128 have an opportunity of raising his point later.
§ Mr. C. W. BOWERMAN
May I suggest that the last Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich exactly meets the point? I hope, therefore, he will give us his support. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Baronet who preceded him, he claims that unless the original proposal was carried an injustice would be done. I would remind him of what the hon. Member for Mile End said a short time ago, when he paid a very proper tribute to the way in which British workmen have carried out their responsibility to their wives in certain circumstances. But he went on to suggest that no protest had been made against the new Clause by the great friendly societies. I think, when inquiry is made, he and other hon. Members will find that the great friendly societies are not definitely opposed to the new Clause, which is now under discussion. Anyone would think, on listening to these discussions, that this is an entirely new benefit—something new, both politically and socially; whereas these great friendly societies have been paying this benefit for many years. I venture to say, if there were any strong abuses, they would be the first to conic to the House and to endeavour to have them rectified. You might carry the matter a little further; you might charge the workmen with neglecting their wives and families, and with drinking.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would point out to the hon. Member that we have carried the principle of this Clause. We are only discussing in what way the object the Committee have agreed upon can be achieved. Therefore, the wider subject the hon. Member is touching upon is out of order now.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
Some remarks were made by the hon. Member for Pontefract during an earlier part of this Debate, when he produced a document, and laid great stress upon it. I would remind him that if he subscribes to one portion of that document, he ought to subscribe to it all.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
We fully recognise that there are cases where a husband does an injustice to his wife, and we want to remedy that; but, at the same time, we want to avoid condemning working men as a class. Therefore, we hold that the Amendment moved by the hon Member for Norwich will fully meet that case, and I hope it will be carried.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I have a conviction that the Committee is not fully seised of the meaning of this Amendment. If it is not out of order, I should ask you, Mr. Chairman, to put it again, so that we may clearly understand it.
§ Question put, "That the words 'shall in every case be the mother's benefit' stand part of the proposed Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 10.
|Division No. 7.||AYES|
|Bathurst, Mr. Charles||Goulding, Mr.||MacVeagh, Mr.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Harcourt, Mr. Robert||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Booth, Mr.||Harvey, Mr. Edmund||Money, Mr. Chiozza|
|Boyle, Mr. William||Hazleton, Mr.||Newton, Mr.|
|Byles, Sir William||Hinds, Mr.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Cassel, Mr.||Keating, Mr.||Sandys, Mr.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lardner, Mr.||Scott, Mr. MacCallum|
|Dickinson, Mr.||Lawson, Mr. Harry||Worthington-Evans, Mr.|
|Esmonde, Dr.||Locker-Lampson, Mr. Godfrey|
|Forster, Mr.||Lynch, Mr.|
|Boyle, Mr. Daniel||Macdonald, Mr. Ramsay||Roberts, Mr. George|
|Bowerman, Mr.||Millar, Mr. Duncan||Thomas, Mr.|
|Dawes, Mr.||O'Grady, Mr.||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Jones. Mr. Glyn-|
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I beg to move, in the proposed new Clause, to leave out the words "or some person nominated by her."
I voted in the Division which has just taken place with some doubts, but I urge my hon. Friends opposite to consider very seriously the Motion and especially the words "or some person nominated by her." I am perfectly sure that there was a considerable number who voted with the hon. Member, and voted with him very gladly who strongly objected to those words. If it is not the wife it ought to be the husband. There ought to be no third person. Opinions have been already expressed upon the subject, and I will content myself with formally moving the omission of the words "or some person nominated by her."
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I will leave the new Clause, in fact, as it is printed upon the Paper and leave out the words which the hon. Member has introduced.
I should like to ask the hon. Member what he has in his mind and how this money is going to reach the
§ mother. It is clear that the officials of the society are not going to obtain entrance into the woman's cottage or room where she is lying ill, and surely it is necessary that there should be some intermediary between the mother and the society in order to ensure that she gets the money!
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
That is surely easily settled. We may first take out these words and then find words to substitute in their place.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think if the hon. Member contemplates a substitution of words he ought to put them before the Committee.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I move this, now, and hon. Gentlemen can accept the Motion on the understanding that we can frame other words afterwards.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
The hon. Member said he gave his support to this Clause, and I understand that he suggests that I should carefully consider the omission of those words and the substitution of others. I do not mean on the spur of the moment. We must have time and there will be plenty of time on Report. I could not do it on the spur of the moment.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment on the definite understanding that the hon. Member will carefully consider it.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I beg to move to delete the words "or some person nominated by her." I objected to the Amendment being withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I did not hear the hon. Member object to the withdrawal of the Amendment. I thought he wished to speak on the broad issue which he raised a 3131 few days ago. The question before the Committee is, Shall the words "or some person nominated by her" stand part of the proposed Clause?
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I would point out that the Amendment vitiates the whole benevolent intention of the hon. Member's Clause. We have been discussing as to whom you are going to discriminate against. That is the whole substance of the idea of this benefit being given to the woman, so that you are going now after all to allow the woman to nominate some person, and you were arguing prior to this that you wanted to legislate against the husband who does not act fairly and squarely by the woman. We will take a case, and I regret to say there are some hundreds in this Kingdom, largely the result of the conditions under which the people live, where the husband is a very bad fellow. I think we know him, and we frankly admit that there is such. He is quite exceptional, but there he is. I venture to say that they are the very persons who will he nominated by the wife to receive this benefit. If the hon. Member knows anything of the conditions in working-class districts, he will find that that particular man will be the very man nominated by the wife for reasons which I need not explain. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why not,"] Do not let us be too lenient about the woman's side of the question. The hon. Member knows full well that in districts like Ancoats and some Manchester districts and in Leeds, and certainly in the Holton district, there are certain classes of women who group together, and I regret to say that sometimes they gravitate into the public-house. Is one of that coterie the right person to be nominated by the woman, who may be lying in her confinement, for the purpose of receiving maternity benefit? The hon. Member must know that a certain amount of the money, after the midwife and doctor are provided for, will go in a certain direction which is very undesirable. On the whole it seems to me that the mere inclusion of these words has destroyed the whole purpose of the proposition. From the practical point of view I submit to him that our proposal is very much better.
Certain statements have been made about the discrimination that is left to the friendly societies with regard to this benefit. I do not know whether many hon. Members comprehend the customs which are followed in trade unions and friendly societies. What happens is this. The sick visitors of the friendly societies and trade unions are 3132 appointed for the purpose of visiting the sick and carrying these benefits to the sick. Those men know the locality and the members of the trade union branch. Quite apart from the questions of sick benefit, men have got the courage to come along to the branch and declare what are the proceedings of a man who is known to almost everyone of the members. Without dragging the whole character of a man before the branch, the visitor says or simply declares "John So-and-So" is not a very desirable person to receive this benefit, and will you permit me to pay it to the wife?" I venture to say that in ninety-nine per cent. of cases the branch will certainly give him that consent to pay to the wife and nothing follows from it. I think we ought to look at the preventive side of this question. If these things exist, and unfortunately they do, though I do not say to the degree some hon. Members say, then the effect of these words being deleted and the practical acceptance of the Amendment will be this, that it will make the husband extremely careful upon occasions such as we are considering as to being in that particular state whereby he would he deprived of receiving maternity benefit on behalf of the wife. I never heard the question submitted or discussed before this Committee as to what the wives would think of taking this maternity benefit out of the control of the husband.
§ Mr. O'GRADY
I believe if a plebiscite of married woman was taken upon that question that they would, by an b overwhelming majority, protest against it. I think that the words "some person nominated by her" would be of a most damaging character. They would damage the object the hon. Member has in view, and lead to such scenes among a certain very great minimum of working-class women of such a character as I think we ought not to contemplate for one moment.
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
It is quite obvious we have reached a point of very great difficulty. I think it is clear that a considerable number of Members desire to remove these words, but do not see clearly the words to put in their place. It is also a misfortune that when I moved this Amendment I carried it to the word "mother," as au Amendment could have been put in at an earlier point in the new Clause. Under those circumstances I do suggest we should adjourn now the consideration of this matter, because the Clause is in a very unsatisfactory state, and I am sure hon. Members will be inclined to agree.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
We could not in any case go on for more than ten minutes, and it is evident there is some divergence of opinion which might be met by general agreement on Monday next. I, therefore, submit for your consideration that you might adjourn at this moment, only I make this one caveat, that we should all agree that on Monday we should not go on discussing the whole subject over again, but that we should confine ourselves to the very narrow point, because really I am getting very despairing at the present moment at the progress we are making with the Bill.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I had an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the whole maternity question. I dare say it was through inadvertence when the Amendments were ruled out that the matter did not come up as a special Clause. The Amendment I had down was "payable to the woman or to the husband, if nominated by her." I have never quite liked the words "or some other person nominated by her." I do not believe in the very few cases that the tyranny of the husband will be such as to force the woman to nominate the husband. I should like to see the words "or some other person" left out, and the words "or to the husband, if nominated by her," inserted. I will put it down.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I do not resist the adjournment, but I hope that between now and Monday some great effort will be made to come to some sort of agreement. I want to say, quite definitely, that we cannot on any account accept the wording that has been moved. I quite agree with the hon. Member's intention, I do not think we disagree with that at all, but those of us who sit on these benches are profoundly convinced that the latter part of this new Clause is most unfortunately worded, and will give rise to all sorts of abuses of administration. I appeal to the hon. Member to get into communication with other hon. Members and to try and see if amongst them they cannot arrive at an understanding.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Hon. Members will recognise that by accepting the Amendment the words of the proposed new Clause as far as the word "mother" ["to the mother"] stand part of the Clause, so that the ingenuity of Members must be exercised in connection with the words after it.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
If the hon. Member withdraws his Amendment we have only dealt with the first line. Is not that so?
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Would it not get over the difficulty if the hon. Member for Salisbury agreed to alter the Clause so that it should read, "or any relative nominated by the wife"?
§ Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
Do I understand that if I withdraw my Amendment the only part of the Clause that stands is the first line?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think it is. But if this Amendment is voted upon, we are on the fourth line ["to the mother"].
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
By permitting the Amendment to be withdrawn, do we mean that these words have to stand?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. If the Amendment is withdrawn the words of the proposed new Clause will stand only as far as "maternity benefit shall in every case be the mother's benefit." It seems to me that it is much more possible to come to an agreement after those words. Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
You have allowed an Amendment to be discussed after the words "to the mother." How is it possible now to go back to the first line?
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE
If this Amendment is pressed to a Division, we shall start again after the words "to the mother."
§ The CHAIRMAN
If a Division be pressed on this point, it carries the Committee as far as the words "to the mother."
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
We need not allow ourselves to get into a difficulty because one Member of the Committee refuses to agree to what everybody else desires. If we find that between now and Monday we can come to an agreement, and if we cannot give effect to that agreement, I shall do everything I can to get my Friends to agree to the matter being raised on the Report stage. I want this matter settled in the spirit of the hon. Gentleman who raised the 3135 question. If we cannot, on account of red-tape, get it done in Committee, we will do it on Report.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I objected to the withdrawal, and I intend to persist. It is not a case of red-tape. The hon. Member and I have voted on opposite sides, and there is a vital difference between us. My suggestion is that we should adjourn the discussion of this Amendment and start the next sitting where we are now.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
May I make a very strong appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract in the interests of all? If this Amendment is withdrawn now, we shall have endorsed the statement that maternity benefit shall, in every case, be the mother's benefit. Beginning with that, we may be able to come to some common agreement. 3136 If the hon. Member presses his Amendment, it may be impossible to do that, although all the Committee want it. Therefore, I would strongly appeal to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I intend to put on the Paper for Monday an Amendment substituting the words "payable to the mother or to the husband or some other relation, if nominated by her," for the words "or some other person nominated by her."
§ Mr. BOOTH
I suggest that I am perfectly fair to both sides in suggesting that we should adjourn at this point. If between now and Monday any form of words can be agreed upon, and I hope one will be, when we meet we can withdraw the Amendment. If no agreement is come to, I hold the Committee to the fact that we have got so far.
§ The Committee adjourned at 3.58 p.m. till Two p.m. on Monday (28th July).