HC Deb 15 August 1913 vol 56 cc3249-52

"The rules of the Seamen's National Insurance Society may, notwithstanding anything in Sub-sections (4) and (8) of Section 48 of the principal Act, provide for the admission to the society of masters, seamen, and apprentices to the sea service or sea-fishing service who are entitled to be or become voluntary contributors and for allowing a member who leaves the sea service and who is, or continues to he, a voluntary contributor, to remain a member of the society."

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."


May I ask a question on the actuarial point? I suppose this is for the Seamen's National Insurance Society, and I believe they have several actuaries at work. I want to put this point: Is not this a fund into which contributions on behalf of foreign seamen come, and I want to know has the actuarial point been considered? I always understood that they paid a low rate of contribution owing to the fact that there are a number of foreign sailors who cannot receive any benefit, but for whom the employers' contribution is paid, and there is a large income from that source, and that it is owing to that that they are enabled to give the benefit they do. What I ask is, if you receive any considerable proportion of voluntary contributors who are not accompanied by any foreigners, would not that alter the actuarial side of the scale?


I think the hon. Member is in error. They pay less, but I think that is owing to the fact that the shipping companies are providing medical aid, and that they have not the same calls made upon the fund. Is not that the reason why they charge less?


May I ask whether there is going to be a general discussion with regard to foreign seamen on this Clause? The hon. Member for Pontefract referred to that. I really do not think it does come under the Clause we are discussing. If it does, I have various points to bring forward.


I think the Committee is prepared to accept this Clause.


As a matter of fact, I did not go into that at all. I merely asked, "Has this point been considered from actuarial standpoint?"


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will explain what is the position of fishermen who are generally known as share fishermen under this part of the Act? Are they dealt with as if they were all upon the same basis?


What I said was that where fishermen own their own boats, and where they were share fishermen, they were exempted under the Second Schedule, but they would be accepted as voluntary contributors.


I hope the Government are going to continue to accept this Clause. The hon. Member has spoken of a number of others not accepted on the same terms. They are frequently employed for a short time on shore, and they are fishermen at other times. In respect to these men at this moment there is considerable doubt, and it depends upon what their particular occupation is when the Act came into force, whether they were employed people, or whether they were to join as voluntary contributors. The hon. Member for Pontefract raised an actuarial point on which the Government ought to give some information. It is true, as he said, that the employers' contribution in respect to foreign seamen had gone to the Seamen's National Insurance Society, and it is also true that lower contributions were taken from them because, owing to the Merchant Shipping Act, employers are already liable to give part of the benefits to those people, but the Merchant Shipping Act, so far as I know, does not apply to share fishermen at all, and I want to know, therefore, whether the share fishermen are coming in at a lower contribution, which is fixed at a lower rate because the employer is liable in respect of those who did come under the Merchant Shipping Act. Is that contribution going to be a contribution of the share fishermen? Otherwise as the hon. Member said, it will alter the whole actuarial basis of the National Seamen's Society in two ways. First, as there will not be so large a proportion of employers' contribution in respect to foreign seamen, and there will be a larger number of men coming in at a lower rate, because the employers were liable to provide some of the benefits under the Merchant Shipping Act. The point the hon. Member for Pontefract has raised is one that requires consideration. I do not know whether it has been considered, but perhaps the Government will tell us.


These men will come in as at present, and if the hon. Gentleman will look at Sub-section (7) of Section 48 he will see that the scheme provided that it shall include "pensions for masters and seamen with long sea service, and the scheme may provide for preference being given to masters and seamen who have served in foreign-going ships or ships engaged in foreign trade other than those who have served in the coasting and home trade ships."

It is possible that they will come in as voluntary contributors, paying the amount in proportion to the benefits they receive.


There is a serious point which has not been considered, which I would like to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend. The Seamen's Society is unlike all other approved societies in that it has not got the choice of its members. Every employed contributor in the service has a right to become a member whether the society wishes it or not, and now it is proposed to give voluntary contributors the same right of becoming members whether the society wishes it or not. Is this not loading the risk against the society?


No, there is no right given. The rules provide that they "'may' notwithstanding anything provided," etc.

Question, "That the proposed Clause be added to the Bill," put, and agreed to.