§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. MONTAGU
This Bill of three operative Clauses is quite uncontroversial, and I believe it will be of very great benefit to the approved societies working the Act. The first Clause carries out the recommendation of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, which has been considering the question of pensions and separation allowances. They fixed as the pension for soldiers who were totally disabled a sum of 25s. per week, and they recommended that that should be inclusive of, and not in addition to, any disablement benefit which the soldier might receive under the Insurance Act. In other words, they recommended that the approved societies and the Insurance scheme should be relieved of disablement benefit, having regard to the disablement pension which they recomended should be given to the soldier. This Bill carries out that recommendation, and a provision is inserted by which it is proposed to deal with any delay there might be in giving to the soldier the pension for disablement to which he is 1108 entitled. Pending the settlement of that pension, he will continue to get under the Insurance Act full benefit, and the reduced sum will only be payable when the pension has been settled, and it is provided that both payments will be adjusted between the Army Votes and the Insurance Fund. Clause 2 is similar to various other provisions, of which we have had one example to-night, under which payments comparable to workmen's compensation arising out of the War are treated in the same way for insurance purposes as workmen's compensation itself; that is to say, an insured person is not entitled to get the benefit of the Insurance Act as well as Workmen's Compensation, and he will not be entitled to get war injuries' compensation as well as Insurance benefit. Clause 3 is a little complicated, but, like Clauses 1 and 2, will have the result of relieving the funds of the approved societies. Under Section 46 of the Act, which deals with soldiers and sailors, the State contribution was paid to the Naval and Military Fund whether the soldier was insured in an approved society or in the Naval and Military Fund. That remarkable provision was inserted because it was anticipated that the vast majority of soldiers and sailors would be insured in the Naval and Military Fund. The prediction has not been substantiated by the fact, as the majority are in approved societies, and this majority will be enormously increased during the War. It is therefore proposed that the State contribution shall be given to the Naval and Military Fund only when the soldier is insured in it, and to the approved societies when the soldier is insured in an approved society. In Clause 3 there are two sentences in italics, but that does not mean that this Bill imposes any extra charge on the Exchequer. It is merely a redistribution, and not a new grant.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman referred to soldiers who are permanently disabled. But there is another class in the scheme of the Select Committee called the partially disabled. During the time of partial disablement, will these people be entitled to receive the five shillings disablement benefit under the Insurance Act?
§ Mr. HOGGE
This Bill raises the point to which I was addressing myself on the Consolidated Fund Bill. A part of this Bill deals with the provision required to 1109 be made because of the suggestion by the Select Committee that the disablement portion of the insurance should be paid not by the national insurance scheme, but otherwise. If we insist on the national insurance scheme paying that 5s., we shall retain to the House the right to criticise the pensions from year to year. If we allow it to be taken out by this Bill, we shall enable the Cabinet to get rid of a responsibility of which they have no right to divest themselves. Unless I get an assurance that this body is not to be set up without consideration, I shall be obliged to put down a great many Amendments to this Bill for the Committee stage.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I hope my hon. Friend will not do that. I do not see the connection between the two things; it may be that the Scottish mind can. But I rose to thank the right hon. Gentleman for introducing this Bill, to welcome him in his new office, and to asure him, on behalf of the approved societies generally throughout he country, that they will be prepared to give him that loyal support which they gave to his predecessor. Not only in this matter, but during his term the valuation will come, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to have the sympathetic support of those who are actually working the Act. I want to ask when it is intended to take the Committee stage of this Bill? It has only come into our hands to-day, and although I quite appreciate that it is a Bill in the interests of approved societies, yet I should like time, so far as I am concerned, to consult some of the larger approved societies before it is taken into Committee. I do not know whether the Government intend to take it on Monday, but I would suggest that during the week-end important consultations will take place, and if we have the opportunity on Monday of putting down any Amendments that seem desirable, and the Bill is taken on Tuesday, I will withdraw any opposition to taking it now.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
May I inquire whether there has been consultation with the representatives of the large approved societies? They are somewhat suspicious in the matter, and perhaps it would be desirable to have a short interval between now and the Committee stage. Certain regulations have been passed by the Commissioners, and the big approved societies are getting more suspicious every week as to what the powers of the Commissioners 1110 may be. Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the representatives of the large societies, and will he delay the Committee stage of the Bill?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
First of all, with regard to the question put by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. J. Samuel), if a man is only partially disabled—by which I do not mean temporarily disabled—he is not entitled to disablement benefit under the Insurance Act. Therefore this Section would not apply. In regard to the questions of the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Hogge), I really do not see what object he will achieve in controlling the pensions if you allow the man to get 5s. a week pension in addition to the 25s. —
§ Mr. MONTAGU
With regard to the other question, I can only say that this Bill is in all its three Clauses of financial benefit to the approved societies, and, therefore, I cannot conceive their having any objection to it. But there is no intention on the part of the Government of taking the Bill before Tuesday, so I hope there will be ample opportunity for discussion.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
I am afraid I did not make myself clear. In the original scheme of the Government I believe it was the intention to pay for the first twenty-six weeks if a person was injured or came home wounded from the War. Then if the person was totally disabled, the 5s. per week would be continued. That has been removed now, and the charge put upon the pensions. If a man comes back from the War will he be entitled during the first twenty-six weeks to the 10s. per week in addition to partial disablement benefit; then, if he continues to be partially disabled and unable to work, will the payment be continued beyond the twenty-six weeks?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
If a man is only partially disabled, the disablement benefit under the Insurance Act does not apply to him. So long as a man is temporarily but totally disabled, he gets his 1111 disablement allowance from Chelsea Hospital, or the War Office, or wherever it may be, and during that time he cannot draw any disablement benefit under the Insurance Act.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Walter Rea.]