§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a sum, not exceeding £228,090, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the 709 sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Insurance Commission (Ireland), and for Contributions and Grants in respect of the Cost of Benefits and Expenses of Administration under Part I. of the National Insurance Act, 1911, and the National Insurance Act, 1913 (including certain Grants-in-Aid)." [NOTE.—£264,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am afraid that I must ask a question on this, as it is not quite the same as the others. If the hon. Member will look at Item K he will find medical certification, medical grants £100. Last year the amount was £97,100. This is a decrease of £97,000. I do not understand why there is such a great decrease. There must have been extraordinary extravagrance last year or very foolish economy this year. We should have some explanation of that extraordinary decrease. I do not see any hon. Member from Ireland here, and therefore I will, for the moment, represent this as a grievance from Ireland. The amount is to be reduced from over £97,100 in one year to £100 in the next. I am afraid I am putting a question to the hon. Gentleman which he cannot answer. Perhaps the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) may be able to answer this question, and I would appeal to him to give me some reason why this item is to be reduced to this enormous extent.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I think the same answer applies to this as to the other question which was raised. It does not mean that this enormous sum is spent in one year and only £100 in the next. These Grants are made, and this money has been voted to be available. I should think that a large portion of it was in account last year, and that £100 has been put down in order to give us a right of discussion, and so that the matter should not be withdrawn from the purview of the House. With regard to medical certification, it is entirely different in Ireland from what it is here. They have no medical benefit such as we have; they have a system of dispensary doctors somewhat connected with the Poor Law system, and they pay a less contribution than is paid here. The whole thing is entirely different in Ireland, and it could not be explained in anything like the manner which would be applicable to the position in England. I 710 have taken the trouble to go through the evidence which was given before the Commission which inquired into the matter as regards Ireland, and I find that this system of medical certification is a sort of adaptation of our system to Ireland, with the omission of medical benefit, which could not be agreed upon, because the Government was unable to come to terms, and the simplest way was to leave medical benefit out, deducting a (penny from the contribution.
If the hon. Baronet will look at the note to the Estimate ho will find that it gives an explanation. I agree with what has fallen from the hon. Member for Pontefract, and the explanation is that the money voted last year is still in hand. We have the money in hand for this purpose; in fact, as soon as the War allows it, we shall be able to deal with the matter freely, without imposing a strain upon the medical profession. The money will be used, and certainly it will not be necessary to revote it. I trust that meets the hon. Baronet's question.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
If the hon. Baronet looks at Item K, he will see that it gives the explanation why they are only asking £100 this year instead of £97,100. I think the explanation of the hon. Member for Pontefract is not altogether incorrect in conjunction with this expenditure it seems to me, according to the explanation, that they have been paying for several years—for at least two years—a much larger sum for medical certification in Ireland than was needed. It states in the Estimate that the estimated gross expenditure in respect of Grants for the three months—not for twelve months—ending the 31st March, 1916, amounts to £23,250. If it is only for three months, what becomes of the other nine months in the year? There is no explanation here of the expenditure for nine months, or you may put it this way. The whole of this expenditure on medical certification is only paid for the three months ending 31st March, 1916, which comes to £23,250. These accounts ought to have stated the actual amount in hand and the actual expenditure incurred, and then we would have known exactly what the amount would be for the year ending 1916. I am bound to say that, looking into the accounts, they are very complicated. I am accustomed to insurance accounts, but these which I have before me, in my opinion, do not divulge the actual state of affairs. I think 711 that it is important between this and next year that we should have a correct statement of the actual estimated income and expenditure for the year, otherwise we shall get into a very complicated state of accounts
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I suppose it is my stupidity, but looking at the beginning of the Estimate I find it says that it is for the year ending the 31st March, 1916, and not for three months. Therefore ostensibly this sum is required for the year ending 31st March, 1916, and I really do not understand it. The Estimate says that it is for the year ending the 31st March, 1916, and then it says that it is for the three months ending the 31st March, 1916. The matter is most complicated, and I am not surprised that an ordinary Member cannot understand it, especially when it is further complicated by the total Vote being put in, which, so far as I know, is not done, I suppose, in any Estimate except in the case of the Army and Navy under the exceptional circumstances of the present War. We never get a total Vote unless it is an Appropriation-in-Aid, or something of that kind.
The hon. Member is asking too much of the Estimates, which do not profess to be a complete record of revenue and expenditure. They only authorise expenditure for the coming year; and, as a matter of fact, we are engaged in war economies and we are holding up the scheme in Ireland because it put a heavy strain on the medical profession. There are various schemes which might apply to Ireland, but at the present moment our hands are not free to deal with the matter.
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I stated that the scheme was hung up owing to the War, and that it was desired to avoid putting a strain on the medical profession.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I hope the hon. Baronet will not object to the total Vote appearing because it may be very important in future years to have the Vote, so that the House can go over the accounts. On the very day when the War troubles arose, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was busy in the City, there arrived at this 712 House four gentlemen from Ireland who were my guests and lunched with me here. They were the Bishop of Ross, the Member for the College Green Division (Mr. J. D. Nugent), Mr. Noble, of the Orange and Protestant Society, and Mr. Alexander, of the Presbyterian Society. They came, on behalf of the approved societies in Ireland, as a deputation to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they were thoroughly united in what they had to propose. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been called into the City as stated, war having been declared. The deputation said they would return to Ireland as, under the circumstances, they could not possibly trouble the right hon. Gentleman in the grave condition of European affairs. They were extremely disappointed, but they felt that they must return to Ireland as they could not bother the Government at such a time.
§ Question put, and agreed to.