HC Deb 23 November 1917 vol 99 cc1549-608

Order for Second Reading read.

Sir EDWIN CORNWALL (Comptroller of the Household)

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

I would remind the House that the National Insurance Act has now been in operation for nearly six years, and to bring into existence such an immense and new organisation has made a great demand on the ability and energy, not only of the staff of the Central Department, but also on the many thousands of societies and branches throughout the United Kingdom. When the House is told that there are no less than 1,758 societies and 10,500 branches, it will realise the magnitude of the work under the National Insurance Acts, and the heavy duties which fall on the central and the societies' staffs. I would like also to remind the House that after the first two and a half years—which was a very short period for these officials in which to get the machinery into working order—the War broke out. War conditions have affected our national life in every direction, but. I do not think it could have affected or interfered with any part of our national life more than it has affected and interfered with this great work of national insurance, in every direction, taking away its members, and altering the conditions altogether with regard to the daily machinery. I think it is only right that I should here express, on behalf of the National Health Insurance Commissioners and myself, our indebtedness for the fine public spirit with which the staffs of the societies and branches throughout the country have generally entered into the work, though those staffs were depleted. I know that they have rendered services beyond what their remuneration could demand, inspired, as they have been, by the knowledge that they were engaged in a great national work.

National Health Insurance touches the whole of our industrial population. There are 15,000,000 of insured persons. From 1912 to 1916 the total income was £99,000,000, the contributions amounting to £82,000,000, and the exchequer money to £17,000,000. During one year, 1916, the employers and employed people contributed £18,500,000, and the State contributed £5,000,000. That money was disbursed in that one year as follows:—Sickness and disablement benefit, £6,000,000; medical services, £4,800,000; maternity benefit, £1,250,000; sanatorium benefit, £750,000; administration expenses,£2,250,000; and balance invested, £8,5Q0,000. I think the way in which this Act has worked during the past six years is a tribute to the present Prime Minister, who was able to weave into the fabric of our national life such an enormous and beneficial change in our social system. I know that hon. Members felt, when this Bill was circulated, that it was of rather a formidable character, but it is in reality a small Bill, a very small Bill, compared with the vast operations with which it is concerned. I would like the House to consider the difference between a statutory and a non-statutory undertaking. A non-statutory undertaking of this magnitude would proceed in the ordinary way, because it would know that at the end of the six years when it came to deal with the report of its managers at the Board meeting, the board would not be at all disturbed or alarmed if at the end of six years of carrying on a business with a turnover of £25,000,000, there were some proposals for rearranging its financial position, and making some amendment in the ordinary machinery and daily working of the system. But when you have a statutory undertaking such as this, it is compelled to work within the four corners of the Act of Parliament, and it cannot make ordinary changes without coming to Parliament to get a fresh Act. But the House will believe me that this is a simple business proposition, dealing with finance and simplification, and, in view of the vast insured population and the period during which it has been working, it is, to my mind, an extraordinary tribute to the Prime Minister, and an extraordinary tribute to the House of Commons that passed such a huge measure, that at the end of these six years so small a Bill as this is brought forward to put the whole thing on a sound working basis.

I will endeavour to show, first, that the Bill provides for financial stability, and, secondly, 'for improvement in the machinery and in the work falling upon the societies. Part I. of the Bill, upon which I dare say a good deal of interest will be centred, consists of six Clauses, and those are financial. Part II. of the Bill deals with simplification, and consists of thirty-nine Clauses, and that explains, in a way, the forty-five Clauses of the measure, which tome Members thought a large one to bring in at war-time, when there is so much other business to be done. I should explain to the House that this Bill is not bringing forward new proposals altogether, for in 1916 the Treasury appointed a Departmental Committee, having among its members expert and able persons. The various types of societies and branches were represented upon that Committee, while expert actuaries were members of it. They went most fully into all the proposals which are contained in this Bill. I would ask hon. Members who wish to take an interest in this Bill as it proceeds through its further stages, since I trust the Second Reading will be given to it to-day, to read the two Reports of that Committee, the Interim Report of May, 1916, and the further Report issued in October, 1916, both of which are available as Parliamentary Papers. I do not think in my experience, and I doubt whether in the history of Parliament, there has ever been a Bill introduced which has behind it so much explanatory material to enable Members of the House to inform themselves of the reasons why the proposals are in the Bill. In those Reports the arguments for and against are given. The reference to that Committee was: To consider and report upon any Amendments in the financial schemes of the National Insurance Acts which experience of administration of the sickness, disablement and maternity benefits may suggest as desirable within the existing limits of contributions and benefits, and apart from further Exchequer Grants. A deputation waited on the Prime Minister a few weeks ago and laid their views before him with regard to married women's sickness benefit and other matters in connection with national health insurance. The Prime Minister on behalf of the Government agreed to an additional Grant from the Exchequer of £250,000. The Ryan Committee recommended a continuation of the married women's sickness Grant which Parliament voted in 1914. The Ryan Committee included that Grant in their recommendation and the Prime Minister, as I have stated, on behalf of the Government, promised an additional £250,000. I want to explain to the House that only in so far as this additional grant of £250,000 promised by the Government affects the proposals of the Ryan Committee does the Bill depart substantially from the financial recommendations of the Ryan Committee. There are of course such modifications. in the Bill as this additional money has enabled us to make. With regard to the other recommendations of the Ryan Committee the Bill has proceeded on the lines of that Report. I never expected or anticipated that when the Bill came before the House Members were going to be muzzled and that the actual words and precise recommendations of the Ryan Committee had to be accepted without discussion by Members of Parliament. I thought that in Committee some slight alterations would be necessary and that the wisdom and knowledge of Members, plus the Ryan Committee's Report, would make a good measure and a good Act of Parliament. Several of my hon. Friends have approached me since the Bill had its First Reading and made representations to me which I quite anticipated would be made in Committee, and I am glad to say that I have been able to satisfy those Members that Amendments will be made in Committee which I think will meet their main objections. The Bill on Second Reading follows the lines of the Ryan Committee In Committee I shall meet and carry out the undertakings I have given to various hon. Members in regard to what they consider to be important matters and which I quite recognise are matters which deserve and ought to have the attention of Parliament.

Let me now deal with the financial part of the Bill. The weekly contributions of men are from the employed person 4d. and the employer 3d., totalling 7d. The employed woman pays 3d. and her employer pays 3d., totalling 6d. weekly. In the case of the man 5 4-9d. goes to the society for benefits, and in the case of the woman 4½d. goes to the society for benefits. The Commissioners under the original Act of 1911 retained 1 5-9d. to redeem the reserve values in the case of men and 1½d. in the case of women. That money is not money that belongs to the society; it is money which under the Act is retained by the Commissioners, and there is no provision in the Act of 1911 which decides how that money shall be dealt with when the reserve values have been redeemed. A misapprehension got into the minds of some people that because it is proposed in this Bill to divert some of the money which is retained under the present Acts by the Commissioners that it is interfering with the money of the societies. It is not interfering with the money of the societies; it is money which under the Act of 1911 is retained by the Commissioners. The annual income from this money retained by the Commissioners is £4,500,000.


Does the hon. Gentleman maintain that this portion of the weekly contribution of the insured persons, when it is handed over for the purposes of sinking fund and redemption and reserve value, is in the absolute discretion of the Commissioners and that the insured persons have no claims on it?


I do not think I said so. What I said was that under the Act of 1911 the money is retained by the Commissioners, and under that Act it is reserved to Parliament to decide what is to be done with that money when the reserve values have been redeemed. It is not for the Insurance Commissioners, but it is entirely a matter for Parliament and reserved to Parliament. I stated that the annual income of the money retained was £4,500,000, which redeems the reserve values by 1930. In 1913 the redemption period was extended to 1932. The present Bill extends the period to 1947, and that releases £1,500,000 out of the £4,500,000. We thus have made available £1,500,000 of sinking fund, the additional Grant promised by the Prime Minister of £250,000, and £150,000, which is the continuance of the married women's sickness Grant of 1914, making a total sum of £1,900,000. It may be desirable here to state that taking national health insurance as a whole, while the men's contributions are adequate, women's sickness, and especially married women's pregnancy sickness, was under-estimated by Parliament in 1911.


Not by Parliament, but by the actuaries.


I do not want my hon. Friend to take a technical point. If you like, say the advisers of the Government or say Parliament. I prefer to take the Act of Parliament when it is an Act of Parliament as the "act" of Parliament. When I was interrupted I was about to deal with that very point, and going to say that although Parliament under-estimated in 1911, it was not the fault of Parliament; neither was it the fault of the advisers of Parliament. That observation perhaps is not so welcome to some hon. Friends, but at that time there was not sufficient material in the possession of anyone to give reliable guidance, or information, to enable either the advisers of Parliament or Parliament to form a correct estimate. In regard to the men there was the old friendly society experience, which the advisers of the Government were able to act upon, and which give them some reliable data upon which they could form an estimate. I therefore want the House to understand in regard to women's sickness, and especially in regard to married women's sickness due to pregnancy, there was an under-estimate made.

The first proposals of the Bill relate to the adjustment of the insurance equilibrium between men and women. To put right that error or fault the first proposals of the Bill are designed to achieve an insurance equilibrium, so that in regard to men and women as a whole we may deal with them as a whole, looking at the problem generally. It is proposed to strengthen the women's funds in two ways. It is proposed that £280,000 out of the £1,900,000, to which I have referred should at once and directly go to societies to augment their women's ordinary benefit funds. In addition to that it is proposed to establish a women's equalisation fund. It is not proposed that the women's equalisation. fund should be a fund, the money of which should go direct to the societies. It is proposed to establish this women's equalisation fund for the purpose of dealing especially with married women's sickness and pregnancy sickness. It is proposed to carry£250,000 to the women's equalisation fund, which it is proposed to distribute to societies in proportion to the number of married women in the particular society and their expenditure on pregnancy sickness. With regard to the first £280,000, it goes to the women's ordinary benefit funds, quite regardless of the number of married women. The £250,000 which it is proposed to put into the women's equalisation fund to be distributed to the societies in proportion to their married women's benefit is to be a State Grant, part of the State Grant of £400,000, of which £250,000 shall be a first charge, and go to the women's equalisation fund.

I should like to remind the House when dealing with this women's equalisation fund of the reason for it, namely, to meet the excess of sickness claims of married women. Parliament recognised this difficulty in 1914, very soon after the passing of the original Act. Parliament voted a lump sum of £500,000. for this purpose, which is still held by the Commissioners. This additional grant of £250,000 is practically a continuation of the vote of Parliament in 1914. It is making it an annual sum for this purpose. I think we may assume that when Parliament gave a lump sum in 1911 it had in view what the annual liability would be, and it expected to make an annual Grant to meet the deficiency. Therefore, although it is an additional Grant, and sounds like new money, it is not a new proposal altogether for the House of Commons to have to deal with. That accounts for £530,000 out of the £1,900,000, and places the women's contributions on a basis as satisfactory as those of the men.

The next proposal is a proposal to establish a contingencies fund. It is proposed to divert from the women's sinking fund £280,000, from the men's sinking fund £910,000, making a total of £1,190,000. It is proposed that seven-eighths at least of this money should go direct to societies in proportion to their membership. This is new money to the societies. It goes to every society in proportion to the membership of the society, and it becomes society money and available for society purposes. It is not at the present time available for anything else but for sinking fund purposes. The object of devoting this money to a contingencies fund is, first, to meet any deficiency disclosed by valuation, and, second, to augment the benefit funds after the next valuation. As I have said, this money is an entirely new source of revenue for the societies. Under the Bill it is proposed that the money, where there is no deficiency, shall be held in the contingencies fund until after the next valuation. Hon. Members have represented to me that they object to that, and desire that it should be held in the benefit fund, remaining there to accumulate until after the next valuation, instead of remaining in the contingencies fund. That Amendment the Government propose to make in Committee.

It has frequently been said that this proposal encroaches upon the surpluses of the societies, and is taking money from the solvent societies for the benefit of the insolvent societies. That point is made under an entire misapprehension. Instead of in any way entrenching upon the surplus of the societies the contrary is the case. In the Bill, Clause 3, Sub-section (1), words have been definitely and deliberately inserted that "no part of any surplus of any society or branch disclosed on a valuation shall be applied in meeting any deficiency in any other society or branch" It seems almost inconceivable, with those words actually in the Bill, that it should have been possible to have so much misunderstanding arise outside and be circulated. Quite the reverse is provided for in the Bill.


I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but his remarks on this point will require a good deal of answering later.


Under the Act of 1911 small societies must associate for valuation purposes. This is a matter of interest to many hon. Members who interest themselves in friendly society work throughout the country. Under the present Act societies under 5,000 are required to associate or pool, except employers' provident funds. The Bill provides that societies between 1,000 and 5,000 should be independent, and not be required to pool. That is said to be a great advantage, and the bringing in of the contingencies fund, and making available £1,190,000 for that fund, enables this to be done, and all those societies are thus made independent. Societies under 1,000 will be required to associate or pool. That is in the Bill, with the provision that societies of common origin or interest may associate and not pool; otherwise all societies under 1,000 are required by the Bill to join a national pool. This is one of the points which hon. Members have seen me about, and the Government have agreed, in regard to small societies, to amend the Bill in Committee to ensure that societies which have already associated should not be obliged to join the national pool.


Which have associated before the first valuation—not already?

1.0 P.M.


Perhaps my hon. Friend will not press me unduly upon that. I do not want to be unreasonable on the point, but I have not gone as far as that. That, however, is not a question for raising a prolonged dispute between the Government and hon. Members. The Government have also agreed to amend the Bill so that associated societies shall not be called upon to contribute to the national pool. The Ryan Committee recommended that a small society associated with other societies, instead of coming into the national pool, should contribute out of its contingency money—not surplus money, but this new money—to the national pool up to one-half, if necessary. It is proposed not to press that in Committee. It is also proposed to provide in Committee that, in the case of employers' provident fund societies, the employers' guarantee should only operate after the use of the contingencies fund. With regard to small societies, it is proposed that they should pool nationally. Under the Act of 1911 societies not associated had to pool either in counties or county boroughs. That sounded all right in 1911, when the Bill was going through, but it had not been examined and had not been worked. That has proved to be absolutely unworkable, because in some districts, geographical counties or county boroughs, there may be only one or two very small societies'left. That is why it is proposed to make it national. Notwithstanding this national pooling, each society will keep its own surplus, and cannot be called upon to contribute more than one-half of its contingencies fund to the pool.

Seven-eighths of the contingencies fund will be used for the purposes I have mentioned, and it is proposed that one-eighth of the contingencies fund, amounting to £150,000, should be held in reserve, to be only used if necessary. It is proposed to hold that in reserve for the special risks fund, which, under the Bill, it is proposed to establish. There, again, is a point about which hon. Members have made representations to me. They object to the title of the special risks fund. The only reason why that is given in the Bill is because that is what the Ryan Committee called it. I see no virtue in any particular name, and if hon. Members prefer to call it the central fund, or there is any better name that we may discover between now and the final stages of the Bill, I have no objection. Hon. Members, however, will not mind my calling it for the moment the special risks fund. This fund is to deal with societies where segregation has driven them, or compelled them, to take members engaged in exhausting and hazardous occupations, members living in unhealthy environment subject to exceptionally low standards of life and conditions. It is proposed that £150,000 of the £400,000 of State money is to go to the special risks fund. If that is not sufficient for the purpose of relieving societies of any such special liabilities, it is proposed that up to one-eighth of the contingencies fund, amounting to £150,000, should be made available.


Does that mean the Insurance Commissioners are going to give up all idea that the owners of these properties are to put them in a habitable condition?


I hope not. The first call on this fund is on State funds, and we do not come on to the contingencies fund unless it is absolutely required, and if the £150,000 from the, contingencies fund is not required it will remain in the contingencies fund, and find its place there. I think the House will see there is no breach of faith with regard to the Act of 1911, and no intention of entrenching on the surpluses. By means of the State Grant of £400,000, and diverting from the sinking fund £1,500,000, a rearrangement of finance is possible.


As regards the special risks fund, is there going to be any alteration in Committee beyond the alteration in the name? Is there not going to be some other alteration as regards the application of the fund to meet the objections that have been made?


I am not aware of any point other than that I have mentioned. I will summarise the general financial proposals: Women's ordinary benefits, £280,000; married women's benefits from the State, £250,000; contingency fund, of which one-eighth may be called upon for the special risks fund, £1,190,000; and the central (special risks) fund from the State, £150,000. That is the summary of the financial proposal. I do not pretend in the time at my disposal to cover the whole of the ground beyond the points which I have already put before the House. I hope I have been able in what I have said to make somewhat clearer the financial proposals of this Bill.

With regard to the other parts of the measure, there are the 39 Clauses, which deal with simplification. I would like to say that, with the exception of two or three points, there is absolute agreement between those who are associated with this measure. There are two or three points which by their nature give rise to a difference of opinion. I have had the advantage of the assistance of an Advisory Committee, upon which there were representatives of the various national health organisations of the country, who sat with me during the summer considering these proposals, and the members of this Advisory Committee were almost unanimous in regard to these Clauses. With regard to two or three of the proposals, they themselves have not been unanimous, and they have had to recognise that although some of them would prefer not to have one or two of these proposals in the Bill, when they came to put forward their own alternative proposals, there seemed to be a little more objection to them than to those contained in the Bill, and they generally recognised that the proposals of the Bill were a fair compromise. These points dealt with by the Advisory Committee will have to be taken up by Members of Parliament, and they must take the responsibility of deciding them. I do not want to give the impression that there are not two or three natural difficulties in the way.

With regard to the main provisions of the simplification Clauses, I wish at once to say that these proposals remove unnecessary complication and will bring great relief to the approved societies and their secretaries. Let me tell the House a few of the things that will happen if this Bill passes into law. The number of sections of the contribution register will be reduced from twenty-three to six. I ask hon. Members to consider the position of the secretaries of the 2,000 societies and 10,000 branches in regard to these registers. I have seen those registers, and they are enough to send anyone mad to have to fill them in and keep them going. All this is quite natural when an Act of Parliament like that of 1911 is brought in, for organisation had to be provided for some 15,000,000 people, and we had to establish some system of book-keeping, which was required by the Act of Parliament. In the case of national health insurance these societies have to keep books in accordance with the Act of Parliament, and the time has now come when business men should do something to relieve those concerned of a lot of this unnecessary burden.

The arrears columns are to be reduced from seventeen to six, and in the case of the benefits register, instead of six sections there will be two. Twenty different rates of contributions will be abolished, and the different values of national insurance stamps sold at Post Offices in this country will be reduced from fourteen to three.

Clause 7 deals with voluntary contributors, of which it was estimated in 1911 that there would be 1,000,000. It is obvious that it is undesirable to keep in existence a huge machinery for 28,000 persons which was devised for 1,000,000 persons. With regard to Clause 8, it deals. with exemption for persons so intermittently employed that the contributions have been inadequate to secure any benefits. There is the case of the charwoman who works for ten weeks in the year and has to pay her insurance contribution for each week, but is not employed long enough to get any benefits, and we propose to deal with that point.

Clause 9 deals with the low wage earners. There was a provision that in the case of low wage earners the contribution was to be so much less; but here we propose that the employer should pay the proper rate, and if there is anything to be recovered by the employer he can recover it from the Commissioners and that the task should not fall on the approved society. Clause 10 deals with the rate of the employer's contribution in case of an employee holding a certificate of exemption. We propose that the rate should be 3d. in all cases for exempted persons. Clause 11 deals with the conditions for the receipt of maternity benefit. Under the original Act twenty-six contributions had to be paid in the case of the employed contributor, and fifty-two in the case of a voluntary contributor. We do not propose, to alter that in the case of insured members up to the present time, but with regard to future members it is proposed to make a uniform period of forty-two weeks. I will not discuss that point in detail now, but it can be discussed in Committee. Clause 12 provides equal treatment for all late entrants, and that will be a very great simplification and probably a very interesting subject for discussion. I do not wish to take up the time of the House on this point now, but at the present moment in regard to late entrants in different categories according to ages, all manner of complications arise, and this Clause will simplify the arrangement and put them all on an equal footing. This will be a very great advantage to members under twenty-one years of age, because the young man under twenty-one is not entitled to full benefits unless he can prove that he has dependants. A lot of work has to be gone through and inquiries made as to whether he has dependants or not, and we want to get rid of all these difficulties and simplify the plan.

Clause 13 deals with persons ceasing to be employed, or ceasing to pay as voluntary contributors. There are certain difficulties which arise here. There is the case of the bank clerk who ceases to be insured if his salary rises over £160 a year, or the case of the petty officer who is promoted. In each case the man comes outside the original Act and his benefit under the insurance scheme ceases at once. It is proposed that they should have a year's insurance and that on coming back into insurance they should come in as late entrants. Coming back in that way is made much more fair and equitable under the provisions of Clause 12, which gives them a flat rate and puts them on an equal footing, whatever their age may be. Clause 14 deals with the transfer from societies. This is a subject upon which there is a difference amongst those who have considered it, and although they all want the same thing, they do not agree as to the machinery for securing it. This, too, is a matter which will have to be discussed in Committee, and the Government will have to hear both sides. Personally, I think the recommendation of the Ryan Committee on this point is the best way of dealing with it, but we do not shut our mind to any representations which I know those interested in national insurance wish to place before Parliament.

Clause 15 deals with lapsed transfer values. At present they are carried to a suspense account, and the proposal is to establish a central fund, out of which to provide reserves for the new plan of late entrants. I dare say Members just now were asking, when I stated that it is intended to have a flat rate for late entrants, how it is proposed to meet the financial difficulties that may arise. It will cost something, but it is not estimated that it will cost much. It is proposed that the money from lapsed transfer values, instead of as now being held in suspense, should be applied to this purpose. It is proposed to call it the central fund, but, of course, if we call the special risks fund the central fund we shall have to call this the lapsed transfer values account or something of that kind. Clause 16 deals with transfers from societies to deposit contributors and from deposit contributors to societies. At the present time it is a very complicated machinery, and it is thought, if it were very much simplified, that it would be better, both for insured persons and societies. Clause 17 gives power to the Commissioners to make regulations with regard to societies' administration accounts. The House knows that many societies have a private side as well as carrying on the State Insurance. This provision gives the Commissioners power to make regulations for a proper financial arrangement between the State side and the private side, whereby greater facilities will be given to societies to merge, in a sense, the State money subject to necessary regulations. The House will quite understand that it would not be right to allow State money to be merged in any way in the administration account on the private side, unless there were proper regulations, and it is proposed to give power to make regulations for that purpose.

Clause 18 deals with arrears of contributions. The present system is very complicated, and it is proposed to have a revised scale and to make it much more workable and convenient, and I think, on the whole, much more satisfactory. Clause 19 concerns workmen's compensation. It enables a society to make advances pending the settlement of claims for compensation, and provides for recovering from the employer the sums so advanced. Hon. Members know that there is frequently delay in getting the money owing to questions arising as to who should pay, but in my opinion there should be no delay in people getting the money. The question of liability to pay the money should be fought out afterwards. If it is the employer's liability and not that of the society, the society can recover. That will be a useful provision. Clause 20 makes better provision for dealing with inmates of hospitals. It gives the society more power to meet the wishes of the insured. Clause 21 provides that a member cannot transfer from a society with a deficiency unless he has paid his share of such deficiency. A society may have been unfortunate and got into difficulty, and there may be a tendency for a rush of members from that society. We must therefore protect the old societies, and this is only a provision for that purpose.

In Clause 22 we come to a question which has given a great deal of trouble to the Ryan Committee and to the Advisory Committee, and I dare say the subject will have to be discussed in Committee upstairs. At present a married woman going out of insurance can either take any balance due to her in payment for confinement, sickness, or distress, or she may become a special voluntary contributor at 3d. per week, receiving medical benefit, but not sanatorium benefit, and reduced sickness benefit of 5s. per week for thirteen weeks, and 3s. per week for continued sickness or disablement. Instead of that, it is proposed that there should be a marriage benefit of £2, or one year's free insurance for all benefits. If I started to go into this subject, discussing its various bearings, it would be a topic of sufficient interest to take up the whole of the afternoon. I therefore merely indicate to the House the nature of the proposal and express the hope that after discussing it upstairs we shall be able to arrive at an agreement. Clause 23 deals with aliens. I dare say some people will be rather alarmed at our proposal that they should receive ordinary benefits, but I can assure the House that it is not from any love of aliens. It is simply a business proposition. We find the arrangement in the original Act very complicated, and it costs a great deal more than if we gave them ordinary benefits. Clause 24 relates to the insurance of soldiers and sailors. When the War broke out it was found advisable, instead of collecting contributions from each individual soldier and sailor, 1½d. from the naval or military authorities and 1½d. from the man, that the Admiralty and the Army Council should pay a lump sum to the Insurance Commissioners. It is proposed to continue that arrangement and to make it statutory. The Army Council and the Admiralty quite concur, and I think it will be useful to make the arrangement permanent.


Does the hon. Gentleman mean that the soldier is not paying his 1½d.?


That is a matter entirely for the Army Council and the Admiralty. They cannot collect more than the 1½d., but whether they collect the whole of the l½d. or only part of it is not a question on which the Minister of Health Insurance has any right to express an opinion. Clause 25 repeals Section 47 of the Act of 1911. There was a provision put into the Act of 1911 whereby, if an employer were legally liable to pay full wages during six weeks of illness, he should pay a reduced contribution, 5d. in the case of men and 4½d. in the case of women. Employers have not been carrying on negotiations with the Insurance Commissioners and studying the Act of Parliament to find out whether they should pay 5d. or 7d. The arrangement therefore has not worked in practice, and it is proposed to abolish it and make the employer liable for the 7d., making the insured person immediately entitled to his insurance benefit, because, in consequence of the reduced. contribution, he was not entitled to his insurance benefit until after six weeks. Clause 26 deals with the mercantile marine. This is a subject which must be discussed in Committee. It is rather complicated, and I would ask the House not to go into it now. It is a question between the Seamen's National Insurance Society and the Seamen's and Firemen's Union. The Act of 1911 gave a special status to the Seamen's National Insurance Society. It was a very desirable thing to do, and it was no doubt intended to be to the direct advantage and benefit of the seamen. But it was anticipated that all foreign-going seamen would join that society. As a matter of fact, they have not all joined it. According to the Ryan Committee from 60 to 65 per cent. have joined that society, 30 per cent., say, have joined the Seamen's and Firemen's Union, and the rest are distributed among other societies. It is an endeavour, following the recommendations of the Ryan Committee, to put that matter straight in the light of what has happened rather than in the light of the Act of Parliament. It is difficult to satisfy both sides, and I am afraid that in the discussion in Committee hon. Members must take the responsibility for it. I hope the House will take the view that the recommendations of the Ryan Committee are, on the whole, the best for all concerned, but I must warn the House that it is a subject that will have to be fully discussed.

Clause 27 deals with pupil teachers who come into insurance and then become certificated teachers and come under the superannuation scheme. Clause 28 deals with unclaimed stamped cards. This money has no home. It is provided in the Bill that this money should go into the sinking fund, but we propose to amend it in Committee, inasmuch as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions (Sir Worthington Evans) takes an interest in this matter, and other hon. Members desire that instead of going into the sinking fund it should go into the special risks or central fund. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) has spoken to me on this matter and has made a very valuable suggestion, which, so far as I am concerned, I shall be glad to incorporate in the Bill; that is, that we should use some of this money temporarily—it will not amount to much—to meet any possible loss that might accrue to the Commissioners in administering the Navy and Army fund, which is a separate society. When a soldier or sailor falls sick and is not on active service he makes his application for sickness benefit. The Insurance Commissioners administer the Navy and Army fund. It takes them some time to trace that man to his society and find out whether he is a bonâ fide insured person and if he has given them the right society. There is an average of fifteen days taken up in inquiries. An average of fifteen days means, in some cases, a good deal more than that. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh has often spoken to me on this subject, and quite rightly, because he always takes a keen interest in it. He has asked, "Why do you not pay these people at once?" The answer to that is that we do not know whether we might lose money, and that we might have bad debts at the end of the year if we find that the men are not entitled to payment. With regard to the unclaimed stamped cards it is proposed to carry the bulk of the money to the central fund or special risks fund, after having tapped a little of it for the benefit of soldiers and sailors.


Can the hon. Gentleman say what sum this will represent?


I do not like to give a figure, but I think it will be quite a small one—perhaps £1,000. Of course, we must not allow any slackness to occur; we shall have to be very careful. The stun might not be more than £500.


It will be recovered in the bulk of the cases.


That is so. This is only proposed to save delay. We must all agree that the insured persons should not be held up until all these things are settled. Clause 29 contains provisions against maladministration by approved societies. At the present time the Commissioners have only the power to withdraw approval from a society. That is a very harsh punishment, and, although it may be justified in some cases it is too much in others. It is proposed to apply the procedure of the Friendly Societies Acts with regard to maladministration on the part of societies, and the officials of the approved societies will be brought under the same system as that under which the officials of friendly societies carry on their work. Clause 30 is a minor Clause. Clause 31 deals with doctors on the panel. At the present time the Commissioners can remove a doctor from a panel, but do not thereby make him ineligible for all the panels. He may be removed from Bermondsey and yet may continue to practise in Bethnal Green, or rather, he might be removed from the Bimingham panel, and thereupon practise in Wolverhampton. We desire to take power to remove a doctor from all panels if he is removed at all. At the same time, the Commissioners have no power to restore a doctor to the panel, and we propose to take powers to enable them to do that. It is a desirable Amendment and enables us to do what is right if the doctor is at fault, and at the same time to restore him if such a course is justified. Clause 32 deals with an important point from the House of Commons point of view. The Public Accounts Committee, reporting on the National Health Insurance Commission in 1916, made a recommendation in their Report to the House, in which they said: Your Committee see no reason why, in the case of Insurance Committees, the same power to surcharge individual members who are parties to irregular transactions as has been applied by law to members of local authorities should not be introduced. They accordingly recommend that legislative provision should be made to that end. That is to say, the Public Accounts Committee made a favourable Report to the House with regard to certain points in our accounts, subject to our taking the first opportunity to straighten the financial position when we brought in an amending Bill. That is the object of Clause 32. Clause 33 gives power to the Commissioners to deal with insurance committees in default. It places those committees on the same footing as committees of local authorities. As the duties of these committees increase and become more important, it is desirable that they should be placed in the same position as other bodies dealing with public money. Clauses 34 and 35 are minor Clauses. Clause. 36 provides for the amendment of Section 63 of the principal Act, making it more workable. This. deals with a point in regard to which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh asked me just now, whether there was any intention to weaken the claim upon anybody in the case of excess sickness through bad housing. Under Section 63 of the original Act it is provided that where undue sickness arises from unhealthy dwellings and insanitary areas, the position should be inquired into and some claim made upon those responsible to relieve the National Health Insurance Fund. As a matter of fact, that Section as worded has not much strength or weight behind it.


It has never been used.


My view is that the whole question of housing has a most vital bearing upon national insurance. So far as I am concerned, I hope that the intentions of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board will be carried out, and that we shall deal with housing in the most drastic and suitable manner. I have had a great deal to do with housing reform as a member of the London County Council, and I am rather ashamed at the little that we did. Although we did a great deal, when you come to look at the position of the country as a whole we are sadly to blame for our whole housing system. No doubt the nation loses tremendously by this lack of proper dealing with the question, and in particular does the national health insurance lose, because every sickness arising from bad housing falls upon the National Insurance Fund, and makes a drain which ought not to be. But I am not the Minister, and this is not the occasion, and this is not the Bill, when a huge housing reform can be dealt with, and this Amendment that I am proposing in the Bill is a slight Amendment in machinery of Section 63 of the Act. I should not like it to be assumed that because I am only proposing a machinery Amendment in Section 63 that is the beginning and end of my views in regard to the housing question, because it is not.


Have the Commissioners ever used Section 63 at all in the whole history of the Act?


I hope they will be able to use it when they get this Amendment. Clause 37 is a minor Clause. With regard to Clause 38, failure of employer to pay contribution, the Bill makes the employer liable for a cash benefit lost, or for a doctor's bill paid, by the employee if due to the employer's failure to pay contributions, and gives power to the society to recover the money. At present the machinery of the original Act does not work at all well. The next three are minor Clauses. Clause 42 deals with the question of the Scottish appeal. There is a right of appeal from the Commissioners in England and Wales, but not in Scotland. We shall be very pleased to hear the protagonists from Scotland on both sides argue the matter. The Clause is a halfway house, and I shall listen with great interest to the arguments in Committee. If the arguments against the Clause are not as good as the Clause, I hope the Clause will stand. If, on the other hand, Scottish Members find a more satisfactory way, it is not a matter which the Government need disturb itself about very much one way or the other. Clause 43 deals with Irish migratory labourers, who come over to this country and whose contributions are not sufficient to provide the benefits under the scheme. The proposal is to give power to the Irish Commissioners to make a special scheme of benefits for these men.

I think I have shown that after all this is a very small Bill, and, although it looked formidable when it was circulated, it is in the interests of the country and in the interests of national health insurance, and, if it is the desire of the House, should speedily pass into law. I know that this is not a time for heroic new legislation, but we may clearly look upon this as a war measure. The industrial classes, the 15,000,000 insured people, and the 1,758 approved societies with their 10,500 branches, will be very much disappointed if we should not bring them this relief. They are overworked, and they are working with depleted staffs. This would very much reduce their labour. I commend the Bill to the House.


I am sure the House ought to be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for producing this Bill. I believe it will go a very long way to place the societies on a sound financial basis, and to simplify the general machinery of the Act. If I make one or two criticisms or suggestions, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am doing it in any hostile spirit, but will take them into his favourable consideration, and do what he can in Committee to give effect, at any rate, to some of them. I gather that the difficulties which were caused by some of the provisions relating to small societies have been more or less overcome, and that the Bill is in no danger from that point of view. The first point I should like to put deals with married women. Under the Act, a woman who continues in work after her marriage is able to go on with her ordinary contributions and receives the ordinary benefits under the Bill—that is to say, she gets 30s. on confinement and 7s. 6d. a week during incapacity before and after the birth of the child. On many occasions that may amount to a very large sum indeed. There is no limit to it. So long as she is incapacitated by the birth of the child she is able to draw 7s. 6d. a week in sickness benefit. Under the new proposal the married woman is given an option. She can either go on paying her usual contribution and drawing the usual benefits or she can take £2 marriage benefit, and on the face of it the giving of the option looks as though you were giving a woman something which she had not got before. But in doing that you are really putting a very great temptation in the way of these married women to take the £2 when they get married, and very likely do not want the money, and may spend it extravagantly, and you are really discouraging them from waiting until they are confined and are very likely in desperate need of maternity benefit and the 7s. 6d. incapacity or sickness benefit. I feel that Parliament ought to take very great care before it passes a Bill which discourages the giving of this 30s. maternity benefit and the 7s. 6d. per week at a time when not only the woman may need it for her own sake, but it is really enormously important for the sake of the health of the child when it is born.

Another point dealing with women is the question of the waiting period for maternity benefit. Under the old Act it is twenty-six weeks. Under the new proposal it is to be forty-two weeks. That is a very long period. It will materially reduce the benefit of a great number of these women, who are very poor in the -great majority of cases, and although they may be able to keep up their contributions for twenty-six weeks, very often it will not be possible to keep them up for forty-two weeks, and therefore there will be lapses and a good deal of forfeiture of contributions. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the existing system has lent itself to a good deal of fraud, but forty-two weeks is a very long period, and I hope the Government may see its way to shorten it.

With regard to the question of aliens, under the old Act aliens got absolutely no contribution from the State in respect of their benefits. They were shut out altogether. Under the new proposals they are going to be treated on exactly the same basis as British subjects. That really seems to me to be a mistaken policy. At the present moment in this country we are desperately in need of money for all sorts of things, and we shall be desperately in need of money after the War for every kind of reconstruction. I may also add that we shall be very much in need of money within the four corners of the National Insurance Act. But I think the explanation given of this very commendable change is really not adequate. If hon. Members will turn to the Memorandum they will see that the reason given is that it is in the interests of economy in the administration of the societies that it is proposed to repeal the Section. That really is the only reason given. But if you turn to the Ryan Report you will find that a very large number of aliens are involved. It states that there are 43,000 aliens, representing an income of £12,500 a year, and representing also for the purposes of reserve value nearly a quarter of a million sterling. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider this matter. If really we have that quarter of a million to spare I feel that instead of giving it to the aliens we ought to give it to our men who are fighting on sea and on land. That brings me to my next point affecting soldiers and sailors. My hon. Friend referred to that subject and read the paragraph dealing with it. Under new proposals 1½d. a week is going to be taken away from each insured soldier and sailor, and paragraph (c) states:

"The Admiralty and the Army Council respectively shall recover by deduction from the pay of seamen and soldiers in respect of sums paid under this Section such amount not exceeding one penny halfpenny in respect of each weekly contribution as they may think fit."


They do it now.


These men are very badly paid altogether; they are very much worse paid than the munition workers and a great many other people who are doing service in this War, and I am fortified in the point I am putting before my right hon. Friend by a paragraph in the Report of the Ryan Committee which contains these words: It would be immaterial to the Commissioners and to the approved societies whether the deduction from pay continued to be made. In the event of any revision in the rates of pay of men now serving, after the War it might be found practicable to discontinue the deductions without any additional charge for them on the Navy or Army Votes. That shows there is very little financial substance in the argument that it would cost too much money, or that it would disarrange the finances of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that, if possible, the Government will strike that particular paragraph out of the Bill and not deduct this 1½d. from the soldiers' and sailors' pay. I have only one other point which I wish to make. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that under the new system the employer if he pays full wages for the first six weeks of illness is not to have the advantage of the deduction from his contribution for benefits. I cannot help feeling that that also would be a great mistake. My right hon. Friend told us that not very many employers had taken advantage of that provision under the old Act, but if one looks at the Ryan Report it will be found that 2,750 employers, employing 131,700 persons—and this does not include 2,000 deposit contributors—have taken advantage of that provision, and I feel that if, in the future, you are going to make the employer pay the full contribution, in many cases that employer is not going to pay full wages during the first six weeks' sickness. It would be a direct temptation to a great many employers who are not very generous to drop the scale of wages or, indeed, discontinue the payment altogether, and leave the employé to take his sickness benefit, which, as is well known, is very much less than any wage he would be likely to receive. I hope my right hon. Friend does not feel that I have approached this Bill in a hostile spirit because I have mentioned these one or two points. I very much hope the Bill will go through and pass into law, as I believe it will do a very great deal to put the societies on a sound financial business footing and at the same time would very largely simplify their working machinery.


All of us will agree that the discussion of the details of this Bill could be better conducted when it goes upstairs, as I understand it is to be sent, to a Grand Committee. But there are one or two points to which I would now like to draw attention. I think there is another aspect of soldiers' and sailors' insurance which has not been touched upon by my hon. Friend who spoke last, and which is of very material interest to the men who are serving. As the House knows, when the Insurance Act was originally passed it required the soldiers who were discharged from the Army should become members of the Navy and Army Fund, and that became an approved society, the funds of which were guaranteed by the Admiralty and the War Office. In those days it was a small society, never reaching more than 100,000 members probably, but on account of the War and of the practice which has been followed that every man discharged from the Army who belonged to an approved society should automatically become a member of the Army and Navy Fund, the society now contains a membership approaching 500,000, instead. of the 100,000 which it originally had.

The Minister himself has referred to the, fact that great delays take place in the payment of insurance benefits to these men. He named the average delay at fifteen days, and, of course, hon. Members will readily understand that if the average delay is fifteen days it would be easy to produce cases of discharged sailors and soldiers who do not receive any benefit from the Insurance Fund for as long a period as two or three months. I have known such cases, and I have brought cases of that kind to the notice of my hon. Friend before now. It will also strike the House that the serving soldier or sailor who has been discharged under these conditions is in such a physical state that it is advisable that his insurance benefits should be paid at once. There ought to be no delay in the payment of that man's insurance benefit. It is in the early weeks, when he is feeling seedy and down-at-the-heels physically, that he does want financial support more than in the later weeks.

2.0 P.M.

The Navy and Army Fund do not pay out until they have absolutely determined whether a man has a good claim or not. On the average, every man has a fairly good claim, and every man does more or less belong to an approved society. The only difficulty that exists is that the man is not able to produce his papers and cards and things just as quickly as he would do had he been in regular civilian employment with things going on in the ordinary way. The War has interfered with that, and it is difficult for a man to produce his evidence on the spot. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman two things. There is no reason why in the Navy and Army accounts you should not create two accounts, a suspense account out of which men would be paid at once, and when it was ascertained to which approved society they belonged the amount paid out of that account would be recovered from that society. There would, therefore, be no loss to the Navy and Army Fund. There would be a little loss if a man were not able to prove his identity, and it was found that the Navy and Army Fund had paid out the sum to a man who should not have had that payment. I suggest to my hon. Friend that to meet that small loss, which I am perfectly certain in my own mind would not amount to more than a few thousand pounds a year—because after all it is only a payment of 10s. a week for twenty-six weeks, and if they could not discover within that time whether the man was right or wrong they would deserve to lose all of it—there is in existence in the English Commission alone. I understand—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong— £100,000 put in the lost stamps account. In the Scottish Commission I know there is £10,000. I do not know what is in the Welsh and Irish Commissions, but in those two alone there are £110,000 in the lost stamps account. A great many of those stamps belong to the soldiers concerned, because the soldier loses his card quicker and easier than most people. You are, therefore, only giving them their own money if you have to stand any loss. If the hon. Gentleman will take those two courses with the Navy and Army Fund then I think we shall get what we all want; that when a man is discharged from the Army or the Navy disabled in any way and is entitled to receive other benefit from the insurance society that insurance benefit shall be paid simultaneously with the pension of which he is in receipt. In connection with that, there is one point I. should like to have cleared up. I want to know whether the sailor and the soldier is getting the money to which he is entitled now for the payments which he is making. This is a point which requires reference to documents, and I would remind the House that in the original Insurance Act men were entitled to certain benefits as the result of the payments they made. The sailor and the soldier to-day pays 1½d. a week for his benefit, and the Admiralty and the War Office pay the other 1½d. I am right, am I not—my hon. Friend will contradict me again if I am wrong—that these payments secure to the sailor and the soldier all the benefits of the National Health Insurance Act. I take it, then, that so far I have stated the case as it exists. When a discharged sailor or soldier, for instance, is suffering from tuberculosis on his discharge from the Navy, or Army, if he goes into a sanatorium, to which he is entitled to go on account of the benefit for which he has paid, his pension is raised to the highest degree of disability, and he receives 27s. 6d. But a reduction is made of 1s. a day from that man's pension in order to cover his maintenance while in that institution, so that he is not receiving 27s. 6d., but 20s. 6d. I should like to know, and I hope this point will be dealt with by whoever replies, why the discharged sailor or soldier who has paid all the time for all the benefits of the National Health Insurance Act, should, when lie is put into an institution for treatment, when his pension is raised to the highest degree of disability to which he is entitled for service, have a. deduction made from his income— because that is what it amounts to—of 1s. a day for maintenance in that hospital. Under the Royal Pensions Warrant, the hon. Gentleman will remember, power is taken by the Pensions Minister to make certain deductions from certain pensions, but my interpretation of that Clause in the Pensions Warrant is that it refers to medical benefit payable to the wives and other dependants of disabled men, and not to this particular subject. I think that is a point which ought to be looked into, because we all want to be fair to these disabled men if we possibly can, and it is the case that this deduction is made for maintenance when he is in hospital for treatment to which he is surely entitled, apart altogether from his services as a sailor or soldier, on account of the payment which he has made to the National Health Insurance. I do hope, therefore, that before we get up into the Committee stage my hon. Friend will take care that that is put right. If those two things are dealt with with regard to the sailor and soldier, then I think a very considerable improvement will have been made.

While I am on the question of the Navy and Army Fund, I should just like to point out that on account of the great growth of that society—it has quadrupled or quintupled in membership because of the War—there has been some criticism with regard to its management and administration. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman noticed, for instance, that in Scotland a meeting of the insurance societies in Scotland drew attention at their annual meeting only a month ago to the unnecessary delays in the payment to discharged sailors and soldiers of the benefits to which they are entitled from this fund, and attributed these delays to the system which centralised the fund in London. It was suggested that some action should be taken to remove the control of the funds, so far as members resident in Scotland are concerned, to the Scottish Insurance Commission, and that in any case it shall be strongly pressed that committees may judge as to whether payments shall be paid or withheld, and so avoid innumerable delays. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has seen the account of that meeting, but surely what we all want to accomplish is that the money shall reach the man in the quickest possible manner, so that he will be able to make the greatest possible use of it.

The financial Clauses have been re-modelled, so far as I could gather from the speech of my hon. Friend, and it is rather difficult to know what has been done, because he has very adroitly, during the whole of his speech, turned from one Member to another, and reminded that Member that he had spoken to him and that he was going to deal with the matter in Committee. The hon. Member referred to would know what was meant, but the House did not understand what was at the back of my hon. Friend's head. Therefore, I think that, in replying on the discussion, it might be well to make clear what suggested changes are going to be made. For instance, talking about the special risks fund, so far as I could gather, it amounted to this: that the quarrel was about the name—that the people who criticised did not like the name—and he said that if that is the case the name could be changed. Surely, nobody is foolish enough to delay the progress of this Bill, which we are all wanting to get through as quickly as possible, unless the name of a particular fund is changed ! That is a meticulous criticism which does not commend itself to me, and I rather wonder whether it is all the objection, and whether there is not something behind it. I should be glad to be assured on that point. There is one omission in the Bill which I think might be remedied whilst we are amending the Insurance Act, and that is the position of the deposit contributor. There is nothing done in this Bill for the deposit contributor class. This was a very particular class, and it was expected to be a type of life which no average society would take. As a matter of fact, it has turned out quite differently, and there are many societies who would take the whole of the deposit contributors if they had that opportunity given them. I think something ought to be done in this matter, and I would suggest that something might be done.

There is another point which will be raised upstairs, and that is the control of these new funds that have been created. These funds are being put under the control of a Joint Committee, which means that, so far as we in Scotland are concerned, we are not going to derive the benefit that we have been deriving from our own better management of the In Insurance Act, which has been better than the management in any other part of the Kingdom. We claim, as we claimed before, when the attempts were made to get rid of the Scottish Commissioners, that we run our Commission much more economically, and with better results, than has been the case elsewhere. That is proved by the Ryan Report in its averages. That will be a point for discussion upstairs. Incidentally, I should like to know what has come over the English Commissioners. The hon. Gentleman made no reference to them in his speech, but I was looking up the point this morning, and I find that one of the original Insurance Commissioners is now Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, two others are engaged in other Departments, and a fourth Commissioner has died, so that the Commission now consists only of the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman. There seems to be a system of erosion by which the English Commissioners are disappearing. They were entrusted with the administration of the Act, and I think we ought to know whether alterations will be made without the approval of Parliament.


They are not getting rid of the Scottish Commissioners.


No; they are not reducing the Scottish Commissioners, because the Scotsmen are a little too vigilant in their criticisms, and they watch their own Commission. It would be a good thing to give the whole of the management to the Scottish Commissioners, because I believe they would produce by far the best results. It would be a wise and economical thing to hand over the management to the Scottish Commissioners. My hon. Friend will find, when he gets upstairs, that there will be considerable discussion in regard to the Clause which provides an appeal, which he, says obtains in England but does not obtain in Scotland. I see the Commissioner-General for Scotland on the Front Bench, and he will agree with me that in Scotland we have a set of laws different entirely from those south of the Tweed, which are different in their virtues rather than in their vices. He will know that it is much better to retain the existing system of law in Scotland in regard to the Scottish Commissioners, and if English approved societies want to do work in Scotland, then they ought to put up with our ways in Scotland. We are not going to alter the laws which are better in order to accommodate people who want to get decisions which, they say, can equally well be got in England, Wales, and Ireland, but which are not obtainable in Scotland. This point has arisen over a very simple question as to whether certain approved societies in Scotland should pay sickness benefit to women who are pregnant with illegitimate children. The House of Commons has determined that these sickness benefits will be paid. That is in the Act. If the Scottish societies want an alteration, they will put down an Amendment on the Paper, and when that point comes forward in the House of Commons they will find at once where they are. Instead of that they want by a side-wind in this Clause to get in this appeal and to make it utterly impossible for poor people to get the benefit to which they are entitled. The Solicitor-General will agree with me that, for instance, under the Land Act, no poor person in Scotland can get a decision except at an enormous cost, and it is absurd to throw the onus of this upon poor people in Scotland. These are the kind of points which will be discussed upstairs in Committee.

What I am keenest upon is the point which my hon. Friend has announced he is prepared to meet. I am extremely keen on the passing of this Amendment, so that the benefits that are paid to a soldier and sailor on discharge will be immediately payable. That is simply a question of financial arrangement. I think I have pointed out a way in which it can be done without involving the Commission in any serious loss, and if my hon. Friend will see to that, and if he will also at the same time see that the soldier and the sailor are not deprived of any benefit to which they are entitled by being driven from the pension warrant to the National Insurance Commission, and vice versa, then, I think, he will have done a very useful service and one on which he is entitled to be congratulated.


Those who, like myself, have had the pleasure of collaborating for many months with my hon. Friend in preparing this Bill will be the first to express to him their cordial congratulations on the result of his labour. We know what solid and practical work he has put into this Bill, and I hope he will find some reward in the response which has been forthcoming in the House and also in the country. Work of this kind very often in one sense defeats itself, because the better it is done the less you see of it. We who see the work are better placed than anybody else in that respect, and can see how good that work has been. My hon. Friend, with characteristic modesty, referred to the Bill as a small one, but we know that while the Bill does not traverse the whole of the ground that some day will be covered in connection with the subject, it does cover a great deal of it. A discussion of this kind opens up a very wide field, and we know that from the circumstances of the time it has been impossible for my hon. Friend to take up the medical side of the Act, which there is no doubt in other circumstances he would have been anxious to do. However, in the circumstances of the medical profession and of the whole population, it was perfectly impossible for him to do so. I hope that, now he has introduced in many quarters of the insurance world a much better feeling than ever existed there before, he may look forward at some future date to completing his work; and if, when that time comes, he deals with the remaining problems as well as he has dealt with some of the problems appearing in this Bill, he will deserve to be congratulated again as highly as he deserves to be congratulated to-day.

The housing question, of course, as mentioned by my hon. Friend, reduces the scope of the purely financial work left in his Department. If very large sums are to be spent on housing, as we expect, what remains to be done by him and his Department no doubt is affected. My hon. Friend need make no apology for dealing in a Bill with finance and administration together. I think that the original idea was to deal with administration alone as part of the measure, but it was soon found that you no sooner tackled administration than you were involved in finance. This was clearly realised by the Comptroller of the Household in getting his Bill into shape so soon as he learned from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer just what hard cash was available for his purpose. It would, of course, be highly undesirable at a time like this, for many reasons, to take up the general financial condition of the national insurance scheme. I regret the raid on the sinking fund, and I acquiesce in it in the inevitable circumstances. But I would like to enter a caveat against one remark by my hon. Friend. He referred to this Act as being likely to bring about " permanent financial stability." I would not myself care to use language that goes so far as that. It is not necessary for any case which the hon. Gentleman makes, because, if it does not secure permanent financial stability, it is certainly not his fault nor is it, indeed, the fault of the House. But so much avoidable trouble has been caused by the use of exaggerated language in years past regarding this Act, that we should all rather put a bridle on our tongues and refrain from holding out the hope that we are done with financial trouble. We may be; I hope so, though I can scarcely say that my own judgment would lead me to that conclusion.

The Bill as printed, as regards at least 95 per cent. of its contents, is an agreed measure. For that very reason debate upon it is apt to centre upon the remaining 5 per cent., that for a while threatened to be contentious, and that now happily has been settled, and in that way one almost inevitably runs the risk of giving an appearance of controversy to a Bill which always was materially an agreed measure and now is really an agreed measure. I may refer to the particular point which for a while was controversial. In the compromise which the hon. Gentleman has made, which was completed at a late hour the night before last, I think that he treated the small societies well. A small society is not in itself a thing to be desired in a scheme of this kind. I hope that the small societies will make a serious and sustained effort to meet their difficulties. I would counsel them to lose no time in amalgamating one with another on every possible occasion. If they do so, their difficulties and ours will be very materially reduced. Meanwhile they were fairly entitled to plead that they were given a certain position under the old Act, and that they were not altogether without a title for consideration. They have received that, and I am sure that they feel grateful to my hon. Friend. The real point of difficulty was not that. It simply lay in the question, Whether the provisions of the Bill as printed do or do not carry with them a threat against the surplus of approved societies? If one is to use technical language there is much to be said for the view that one can scarcely contemplate that a threat to any existing surplus really was intended. On the other hand, there is but a thin distinction between a surplus actually accumulated and one which is in course of accumulation, or which at some future time may be accumulated. I do not think that my hon. Friend can have failed to note what a large proportion of the approved societies in the country, popularly and no doubt accurately believed to be in course of accumulating a substantial surplus, regarded the original proposals as carrying a very serious threat to their position. I think that that fear was not without foundation. We have often seen a belief in certain quarters that by making somebody else poorer you can make yourself richer, but I never heard the argument that by making yourself poorer you can also make yourself richer so nearly approached as I have heard it in some of the arguments contained in communications which have reached me during the last few days. It is quite true that by the use of the sinking fund the use of certain moneys can be accelerated. I rather regret that part of the Bill, though I am not opposing it; but I do not think that one can fairly plead that it compensates a society for the risk which they thought the Bill held over them of having some of their contributions made use of for the relief of other people.

It may be said that by means of the special risks fund part of the contributions paid in respect of insured members -of a solvent society is potentially applied to meet the deficiencies of insolvent societies. All societies have a claim on moneys in the sinking fund to meet reserve liabilities in respect of each insured member, according to his age. When the reserve liabilities are paid off the moneys at least should go to each insured person to make his contribution up to the promised 9d., and thus solvent societies would pay extended benefit sooner than insolvent societies. Of course it was owing to the fear that that expectation would be defeated that the 'objections to my hon. Friend's Bill were made. That. point also was compromised by my hon. Friend at a meeting between himself and some of his Parliamentary colleagues, and when I took the liberty of intervening in the course of my hon. Friend's speech, for which I hope he will excuse me, I did not for a minute suggest that he will not be as good as his word in carrying out his undertaking. We all know him too well to think that he will do anything else. It is just to guard against the slight risk of misunderstanding, which I do not think really exists, but which might be held to exist and cause trouble afterwards. There is nothing in the words which justifies the hope, and the suggestion was not put forward, that the two sums of £150,000 constituting the special risks funds would be decreased. Some would, no doubt, be glad had they been smaller. But that actual money involved was not what frightened them.

My hon. Friend will agree, in considering that it would not be possible in terms of the compromise arrived at, to bring forward a suggestion that the amount of money in the special risks fund should be increased. I think that my hon. Friend and we are in agreement. Of course no Parliament can bind its successors, but we understood that my hon. Friend was to do all that he could to safeguard them from any fear of what may happen in the future.

There are one or two other points to which I wish to refer. Of course, when the scheme was introduced in the first place, in 1911, the intention was to have a really national scheme. I will not go into the reasons which rendered it necessary to break the working of the scheme into separate societies, but no doubt the societies were actually invited, and rightly invited, to be as careful and economical as they could, and the promise was held out that any money saved in that way would fall to the benefit of their constituents. I think the arrangement was one which did questionable credit to the Parliament of the day, but it was made; and no doubt my hon. Friend, by his action, in meeting the fears of these societies, shows that he is quite prepared to recognise that they have a position in the matter which it would scarcely have been fair to overlook. No doubt we shall have further Insurance Bills, and I wish myself there was a more substantial prospect of having further large sums of money, which many of us, all of those who really believe in the benefit of insurance, would like to see brought into account. Looking at the enormous public trust reposed in approved societies, I would like to utter a word of warning to them, or, at all events, to some of them. For the last two or three years I have increasingly felt how defective is management of many of the smaller societies, especially the smaller societies in England. I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) spoke quite fairly when he indicated that the management of societies in Scotland, as a whole, has been rather better than in England. This is a measure which has been described as dealing with the practical difficulty of the whole system of working through approved societies, and I counsel approved societies to make every [...]enort to improve the standard of their management, though I do not hesitate to say that very good service by large societies, such as the railway societies, has been rendered to the cause of insurance. They have shown on a large scale, more completely than any other type of society, what a fine thing can be made out of the working of approved societies under the Prime Minister's great Act of 1911.

For one reason, rather a theoretical reason, I regret that any change has been made in that position. For from the first valuation of those societies, compared with the first valuation of others, valuable information would have been placed at our disposal, and much guidance given to us. One or two points were raised in the course of the Debate about which I should like to say a word. My hon. Friend himself referred to the great scope of the Insurance Act, and mentioned that it dealt with the whole industrial population. From my point of view one of the defects is just the fact that it does not do that particular thing. No doubt what the hon. Gentleman meant was that every industrial worker in this country, either in his own person or in his family, was in some way affected by the operation of the Act. In that limited sense, his remark was true, but I trust that the medical side of the case will also be treated as a whole, and that much will be done to do away with that difficulty. My hon. Friend referred to the Ryan Report, and in doing so he paid a handsome and well-deserved tribute to some of his own official advisers. Personally I think it is a mistake to over-emphasise the extent to which my hon. Friend's scheme is really based on the Ryan Report. Not only was the reference to the Ryan Committee very restricted, but the Ryan Committee did not know what money was available. A financial scheme was prepared largely de novo by Sir Alfred Watson, a new and valuable scheme, and I think he is entitled to have his name associated with this scheme for working the finance of insurance in future. Then, Sir William Plender and Mr. John Mann are men of figures who have done much work recently for the nation and the nation should record its thanks to them. Had a Bill been brought forward simply embodying the recommendations of the Ryan Committee, I do not think it would have been possible to pass it through the House, and I think my hon. Friend realised that, in effect, at a very early stage. What is left of them in the Bill is all to the good, with the considerable modifications that have been made. A good deal of the work and almost all the administrative recommendations made by the Ryan Committee are of course excellent, and will be found in my hon. Friend's Bill, but there are others which in a large measure are absent.

My hon. Friend described the money contributions of men as, on the whole, adequate, and if we were dealing with their contributions as a whole that might be so; but the difficulty is that one does not do so. When my hon. Friend came to deal with the women's contributions I began to feel a slight difference from him. The question has been put as to who was to blame for the trouble which has arisen. I certainly think it would be very gracious on the part of this House` to countenance any attempt to place the blame on the actuaries. I remember that the distinguished President of the Faculty of Actuaries in Scotland disclaimed for his profession all responsibility for the results of the Act. So far as I know, it is. not possible to place any blame whatever on the actuaries as a whole—these distinguished men who gave advice at the time, because the advice was accompanied. by serious cautionings. Frankly I think all the blame does rest on the House of Commons of the day, and the extraordinary thing is that the House of Commons. of the day made the arrangement, knowing perfectly well what were the dangers ahead. I am afraid that everyone who has the cause of insurance at heart must; in that respect, looking back over the past six years, regret what was done, and that` attention was not aroused to the responsibility for what was being done. The responsibility of putting this matter right certainly now rests with this House of Commons. Apart from who is to blame, there is a very interesting question opened" out by the Debate. It is not so much a question of the right or wrong calculation of the charges made against the insured' person and the employer, as one of the allocation of the charges and of the burdens' going with the charges after they were paid. There again the whole blame must be accepted by the House of Commons. Then there is the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh as to the name of the special risks fund. I. am sure my hon. Friend Sir Edwin Cornwall does not mean to suggest that: members of approved societies travelled to London merely to discuss what name should be attached to this particular fund. On this point I do not want to add anything to what I have said; I think we are at one in this matter and that it can be arranged. The next point is as to the right of appeal in questions of law arising in Scotland. It is quite evident differences of opinion exist. I do not know if it has ever been suggested that a difficulty of that kind might be solved by the homely process of tossing up for it. I do not doubt that it will be possible to arrive at a settlement of the question upstairs. Tacked on to that question there is the discussion as to whether certain allowances should be made to women the mothers of illegitimate children. The interesting point of that discussion is for the moment not the moral or administrative point, but rather that in the original finances of the Act no money was provided to meet the more liberal interpretation of that benefit. There is much to be said from the moral point of view and as to administrative reasons, but for the moment' I do not care how they are answered. No provision exists in the finances of the original Act to cover a practice which has grown up in many societies. I conclude, as I began, by asking the hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Cornwall) to accept my most cordial congratulations. I am sure that the societies about whom I have been speaking thank him for the reasonable and straightforward manner in which he has met them and that so far as they are concerned they will facilitate the progress of the Bill by every means in their power.


I am sure that the House generally will appreciate the manner in which my hon. Friend (Mr. Currie) has met this Bill. I, like him, am not prepared to admit that this is the last word in national insurance. I, like him, believe that the time has arrived when the whole question of health must be dealt with in a bigger and better way than is contemplated in this measure. But unfortunately there are difficulties in that connection, and we are here concerned with an attempt to deal with anomalies which already exist in the Act. It is quite true that the House of Commons could be blamed, if one wished to be critical, for not using better judgment when the present Act was going through Parliament, but I would submit that we had only then a very limited experience to guide us. Those of us at that time connected with trade unions and benefit societies and those in charge of the Bill knew perfectly well that the whole risk as to women was a gamble. There were no data that could be relied on and no information to enable us to say with any degree of accuracy what the position would be, and the fact that women had to be included in the Acts did at least mean that so far as the Government were concerned they made a promise that they would deal with the matter at a later stage. What we are concerned with now and why we urge the importance of this Bill is because serious as the position then was it has in consequence of the War become far more serious to-day. Whilst in 1914 there was a certain number of women in industrial occupations, there are to-day over a million more working women than were then engaged in industrial occupations and those women are brought, within the purvue of the Insurance Act, We who are charged with the administration of approved societies feel on behalf of our members, who have given up privileges and have done all they could to. facilitate the women in industry in order-to help the War, that it is at least the duty of the Government to say that notwith-standing the disadvantages in your employment you ought not in addition to that to be called on to bear insurance liability unless the State can in some way come to the rescue. Stripped of all details the real crux of this Bill is that it does enable us in a practical way, to deal with that liability which I have indicated.

I know that it can be argued that some of the terms of this Bill go outside strictly what is the Ryan Report. That may be perfectly true. My answer is that all the Clauses in the Bill are agreed Clauses by those responsible for the administration of the Act. Surely if those people can meet and hammer out agreed clauses and get complete agreement on matters so divergent as these, that reflects the greatest credit on the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and enables Parliament to realise that they have been saved a lot of worry in the working out of details which have been settled by practical people. I believe that this Bill will simplify the present Act. There are some people who are supposed to be authorities on the Act, but I question whether there is any man breathing who will attempt to explain all the ramifications of the Insurance Act. My hon. Friend has said that lavish promises were made. I believe that if the Insurance Act contained all the promises that its author and other people made, it would be a very different Act from what it is today. Some of us had to take the responsibility at that time of pointing out that many of the speeches, many of the things that were said in its favour were never in the Act, and we are waiting for the time when probably they will be. But I think there will be general agreement that so far as this Bill is concerned it is essential that it should be passed this Session. I do hope the House will recognise how much interest is being taken in this measure by those connected with insurance work. I hope it will be recognised that it would be far better to argue this Bill upstairs, if there are any differences of detail, and, above all, I hope the Government will believe, as I say here on behalf of a very large number—indeed,a majority—of those engaged in administering this Act, that they look to the Government to fulfil its promises and see that this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament before the end of this Session. I am sure the lion. Gentleman on the Front Bench will be pleased with the reception that this Bill has got. The criticism that there has been has been on minor details, all of which can be met upstairs. it we approach the question there, as I believe we shall be able to approach it, with a genuine desire for agreement, I see no reason why Parliamentary time should not be saved and the Bill soon become an Act of Parliament.


I should like to join in congratulating my hon. Friend on the Front Bench on having produced a Bill which, as the lion. Gentleman said, is absolutely essential, which ought to be carried into law as early as possible, and which, although its provisions are in some respects complicated and difficult, has commanded almost universal assent. It is a singular fact, none the less it is true, that the comparatively empty state of the benches in this House to-day is in itself an eloquent tribute to my hon. Friend. It testifies to the confidence which all those who are absent have in him. It shows that the representations which have been received from constituencies, and the investigations which, I presume, the authorities themselves have made, have satisfied all that the Bill is, on the whole, a thoroughly good Bill, and the sooner, therefore, it is read the Second Time and sent upstairs the better. There are just one or two points to which I should like shortly to refer, and put forward for the consideration of my hon. Friend. First of all, there is the contingencies fund. He was good enough to indicate in his opening speech that he would consent to an Amendment, the nature of which he indicated, and which will remove the objection felt by certain sections against the Bill as it now stands. I pass to the special risks fund. I entirely associate myself with what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs. What was, desired in regard to this special risks fund was not a mere change of name. I do not suppose anyone is going to travel up and down the country seeing my hon. Friend opposite in order to get a name changed. What some, however, are anxious to ensure, and what I believe the hon. Gentleman will concede, is that, so far as he can, neither this Parliament nor succeeding Parliaments will act upon the principle that the surplus of a successful society is to be handed over to make good the deficiencies of an unsuccessful society. I think that is a matter which will command assent in all quarters of the House. Therefore, if there is any Amendment that can be introduced into this Bill in regard to the special risks fund which will make that additionally clear, I gather from the hon. Gentleman that he will be prepared to accept them. I think I have his assent there?


I certainly can give the hon. and learned Gentleman the assurance he desires.


There is another matter, which affects one society, and a very important one, rather specially, to which I should like to draw attention. That is the North-Eastern Railway Servants' Pensions Fund. I think the attention of nay hon. Friend has been drawn to this society. He fully realises the extreme importance of the work it is doing in regard to the servants of the North-Eastern Railway Company, and as to the importance of safeguarding the interests of this society in every possible way. Clause (1) of the Bill, which deals with voluntary contributors, may, if it is left unaltered—in fact, I go so far as to say, will—undoubtedly very prejudicially affect the position of voluntary contributors in this society. I think I am right in saying that the hon. Gentleman has seen persons entitled to speak on behalf of the society, and has given them assurances that the position will be considered, and if necessary protected by a special Clause which will meet the case brought to his notice.


Representatives of the North-Eastern Railway Servants' Pension Society have seen me. Their case is a totally different one from that of any other society in the Bill. They satisfied me that the Bill as now drafted would be not quite fair to them. Proposals have been made. If later they do not think them adequate, I have promised to make them adequate. and give them protection in the Bill.


I beg to thank the hon. Gentleman very much for what he has said. I am pretty certain the assurance he has given will be extremely satisfactory to this important society and its members, who are all over the North-Eastern Railway system. There is one other subject to which I should like to refer, a subject referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury—that is, the question of the alteration of the aliens Clauses of the Bill. I hope that will receive a little more consideration later. As the matter stands now, not one penny of State money goes to supply benefits for aliens. I think quite rightly so. If the Clause of the present Bill remains unaltered aliens would in future be treated precisely the same as British subjects; will be entitled to receive the same additions and the same benefits from the State in the way of additions to their contribution as if they were British subjects. For my part I desire to protest exceedingly strongly against that proposal, especially if, as I gather it would include the case of enemy aliens who become merged in the general, class of aliens at the end of the War. For my own part I do view with the utmost resentment, and I think many hon. Members will have the same feeling, the suggestion that Germans should come into this country after the War, get benefits from the State under this Bill, and contributions paid out to them in cash by the State, just as if they had been all their fives British subjects. Therefore, although the point is, I grant, one for Committee, I think it is a point which the House will do well to consider. I trust the hon. Member will not be obdurate when the Bill goes upstairs, for it is a point upon which I think numbers of the people of this country, when they have their attention drawn to it, will feel exceedingly strongly against. I would join with those who have spoken in hoping that this Bill will have a short and satisfactory passage through Committee, and become law before the end of the Session.


I should draw rather a different conclusion to my hon. and learned Friend who has just spoken from the empty benches in this House. I know some of the hon. Members who take a very keen interest in this matter have not thought it necessary to attend here to-day because of the understanding arrived at, which we feel with absolute confidence the hon. Gentleman will carry out in Committee. That accounts to a certain extent for the absence of some Members. A much larger explanation than that is necessary. If it were not for the fact that I see opposite to me my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions (Major Sir L. Worthington Evans). I could almost believe I was living in another world than 1911. He is the one outstanding fact that reminds me we are supposed to be discussing a vital national insurance measure, because, whatever other Members may have been in the House in those days, the hon. Member for Colchester was never absent during the discussions of the original Act, and left his imprint upon it. I am glad to think that, in respect to the little alterations that have been arrived at between the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and other Members, a fund is going to be formed, which, I hope, will be called the central fund, if only in memory of the hon. Member for Colchester, for some of us remember his stout advocacy in this House of the formation of a central fund precisely to fulfil the objects which this fund will carry out.

3.0 P.M.

May I make one passing reference to what the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) has said? In arguing that this Bill should have an easy passage, the right hon. Gentleman said that people representing varied interests had met and hammered out agreed Clauses. Most of the difficulties, I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit, which have occurred in respect of this Bill arise from the fact that there was no representative on this Committee, upon whose findings this Bill is founded, of a very large section of societies in this country, the employés societies, representing groups of employed persons in the same trades, in many cases with their funds guaranteed by the employers. There was no representative of that class of society at all, and it is from that, as well as in some measure from the rural societies, that a good deal of apprehension was felt that there was going to be something in the nature of robbing hen-roosts. I agree in a measure that this Bill does not contemplate any raid on the surplus of these societies. But I cannot entirely agree with him when the right hon. Member in charge of the Bill speaks of the sinking fund as being something entirely separate and outside. May I refer him to the actual words in the original Act, Clause 8, Sub-section (9)? As soon. as the sums credited to approved societies as reserve values in respect of persons who enter into insurance within one year after the commencement of this Act have been written off in manner provided by this Part of this Act— So far there is the definite allocation of the sinking fund— the benefits payable to insured persons under this Part of this Act shall be extended in such manner as Parliament may determine. Parliament has no power whatever to allocate this sinking fund to any purpose it chooses, any more than the Insurance Commissioners have. It can only be devoted to the extension of the benefits payable to insured persons in such manner as Parliament may determine. That being so, I think the misapprehension—I am not wrong in using such a term—under which the solvent, prosperous, and economically well-managed societies have laboured is not so very wide of the mark. After all, even an eminent actuary like Sir Alfred Watson will agree with the old Latin tag ex nihilo nihil fit. You cannot get money out of nothing by merely juggling with figures. The question of the meeting of a deficiency is dealt with in the Act of 1911 in quite a different manner. Clause 38 of that Act specifically laid down that it is to be met by a levy, by increased contributions, or by some other means which, in large measure, would protect the members of the society from loose and careless administration. There are some provisions in this Bill whereby, it is thought, careless and loose administration will be entirely met; that somebody is going to be a watch-dog and see that a certain standard of administration is kept up, and that no portion of the special risks fund is going to be used to render financially sound a society whose insolvency is due to careless or corrupt administration. I think it is appropriate to read what the Prime Minister said on that subject. He Was so impressed with the fact that there was no more fruitful source of insolvency than this question, that he said, in this House, on 30th October, 1911, in referring to surpluses which would be accumulated under good management, How are these surpluses to be made? They will be made far more out of good management than out of good lives. Societies that happen to have skilled, able, mod experienced men at their head, and not merely at their head, but in all branches of local administration, that have the courage to stand against malingering, even at the risk of losing membership, will have a good surplus. Money will be lost far more from cowardice than ill-health. It is a very difficult thing for societies to apply their rules ruthlessly. Anybody who has been working the great friendly societies declares that there is no doubt there has been real slackness until within the last few years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1911, col. 630, Vol. XXX.] That was the sort of thing that was said by the present Prime Minister, who was in charge of the National Insurance Act, holding out to societies of whatever sort, who administered sickness benefits in the future, that the one fundamental thing to do was to see that there was no slackness in their administration. Very naturally that large group of societies that have not been the least successful in administering the Act were a little apprehensive when they saw what the financial arrangements were. Let me give my version. There is the sinking fund money, one and five-ninths of a penny in the case of men and a penny-halfpenny in the case of women. That is taken to the extent of four-ninths in the case of men and one-third in the case of women, and put into this contingencies fund. What is to be done with that contingencies fund? It is to meet the deficiencies in the case of their own societies where a deficiency arises; but if there is no deficiency, what is to occur? Under the-provision of the Bill this contingencies fund is not then to be liberated. It is liberated to meet deficiencies wherever-they occur, but where the society is perfectly solvent it is to be held in suspense until the next valuation. The solvent societies naturally ask why. This curious provision could not be in if there were not some object. Why hold it up for another five years' period if you are perfectly solvent? The natural conclusion they came to was that, like the chicken which is specially fed in order to make it plump for the market, there was, at any rate, a temptation that the society already solvent should spare something for its less prosperous neighbours, and that the special contingencies fund should be held up for another five years, always subject to be taxed for the special risks fund. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that that is not to be, and on that point I want to be quite definite as to what is proposed. The Amendment provides that instead of holding up this contingency fund for another valuation it is. to be carried to the benefit fund of the society. As long as it goes into the benefit fund of the society, these solvent societies feel that the temptation to future Parliaments will be removed. With regard to the special risks fund. the right hon. Gentleman explained that if only £150,000 is necessary for this purpose it is to be met out of the Treasury grant, but if more is wanted up to £300,000 is to be met by diverting one-eighth of all these fractions of pennies from weekly contributions, and they are to be diverted from the sinking fund into, the contingency fund. That is exactly how it stands in the Bill, although it sounds complicated.

The hon. Member told us what is to happen if less is required than £300,000; but what will happen if more is required? Naturally these societies say to themselves what is going to happen if more is required, and they ask was it worth while to break the rule and the real principle which underlies the National Insurance Act for the sake of £300,000 a year. The hon. Gentleman spoke about £8,000,000 invested in a single year, and I think he said the total income was £25,000,000 a year. In regard to this Bill I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman may congratulate himself that he has had 'extremely reasonable people to deal with, and they have asked for an absolute minimum in asking, not that the special risks fund should be done away with or called by another name, but that these contingency funds, which are set up if you arrive at a valuation and you have not a deficit and do not want any part of your contingency fund, that fund should go to the benefit funds of the society absolutely and without question. Why is it? Because they are built upon a very sound foundation. The North-Eastern Society is composed of people in the same employment, who know all about one another. Every member of the society is his own watch-dog. They are all interested in the success of the society which they have themselves carefully managed and the pension fund will increase, and all the rest of it. On the 31st December, 1915, this same society had a surplus due to its good administration of £2,493, and if that surplus had not been accumulated owing to slackness of administration, if it had been necessary to distribute that money, the National Exchequer would have had to pay £554 as their share. So besides saving £2,493 to their members they have saved the national finances £544 in the first three years of the operation of the National Insurance Act.

There are one or two minor points with regard to these Amendments that I think should be more clearly indicated in view of the importance of this measure. All opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill has been removed because these questions have been threshed out, but this has been done very hurriedly and with great pressure, and I do not think the Government had any right to take the Second Reading on a Friday afternoon so soon after the Bill was printed. The first Amendment which is vital is that after the first valuation the contingency fund of any solvent society shall be transferred to its benefit fund; secondly, there is the provision which has been made with regard to the special risks fund which may turn out to be wholly inadequate. The third point is with regard to the pooling of small societies. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman quite adequately explained the difference between the proposals of this Bill and the provisions of Clause 39 of the 1911 Act. He did not tell the House that the small societies under the 1911 Act were to pool within their own locality, county boroughs and the like. It is a very big change to say to all societies that they have to go into a national pool with their contingency funds if so large a sum is required. This new fund which is created by tapping the sinking fund is to go into a general national pool. The Act repeals Section 39 of the principal Act, but there are parts of that Section which ought to be retained. The Amendment provides that until the first valuation which is pow proposed at five years, small societies of under 1,000 shall maintain their right to enter into voluntary association, and then each association will have its own contingency fund and shall not be liable to have it drawn upon for contributions to the general national central or special risks fund.

The fourth Amendment referred to was the provision that the employers' guarantee should not be used until the contingency fund had been exhausted. The fifth proposal deals with the right of employers' societies, to which employers contribute, to pool among themselves to make good deficiencies, and that is made absolute. That simply involves the substitution of the word "shall" for the word "may." The sixth Amendment which is agreed to deals with the absolute power given by Sub-section (5) of Section 3 to the insurance commissioners of manipulating grouping entirely as they like. The seventh provides that the contingency fund of the society shall be used to make good a deficiency before the employer is called upon to make good his guarantee. The eighth is an important matter. Among the reasons justifying a call upon the special risks or central fund should be paucity of numbers. There are a great many things mentioned, such as special sickness and the like, but there are some of these older small societies which, for one reason or another, may have an undue drain upon their numbers without it being at all due to mismanagement. We therefore say, if this central fund is to be set up to meet deficiency, that paucity of numbers should certainly be one of the things justifying a claim. The hon. Gentleman, I think, adequately dealt with the last one —unclaimed contributions. Those are to go to the central fund, as we call it, or the special risks fund, as it is called in the Bill, and not to meet the claims of reserve values. That is an additional source of revenue for this special fund, and there is very good reason to suppose that it is likely to be wanted.

The hon. Gentleman dismissed almost with a word Clause 26, which deals with the mercantile marine. He said that it was included in the general phrase " simplification of administration." It is a great deal more than that. Under the Act, four contributions are taken as equivalent to five, because, whereas the claims upon the fund are not so great in the case of merchant seamen, they suffer in ordinary times from considerable periods of unemployment. The National Seamen's Insurance Society includes 65,000 members, as against something like 40,000 in the Seamen and Firemen's Union, the next largest society. This society says that it is quite unnecessary to make the change, because the extended benefits given under Clause 26 can perfectly well be met out of the four contributions, and some proof of that is provided by the fact that they have already, during the years that the Act has been working, accumulated £80,000 as the nucleus of a seamen's pension fund. The change, therefore, except that it is said to simplify the accounts, would certainly not be demanded by anyone. The main reason for it appears to be to make it possible by putting seamen on the same level as others to get them recruited by the land societies pari passu with other members. That is contrary to the obvious intention of the Act of Parliament. During the War, owing to the vast number of seamen who have been engaged on really naval duties there has been no lack of employment, but when we come to the end of the War and these naval duties cease, these periods of unemployment which were contemplated by the original Act will become a pressing actuality. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, ought not to have dismissed that matter in a few words. It was only yesterday that I was able to obtain the views of the National Seamen's Society, and I have, therefore, been unable to make any arrangements with the hon. Gentleman, but I can assure him that Clause 26 will require the most careful consideration in Committee. We shall have to decide far more than Committee points. We shall have to decide whether the principle of the Act of 1911 is wrong and whether we are able to introduce something fresh, and the right hon. Gentleman will have to show some very good reasons for it before the Clause is added to the Bill.


join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister in charge of the Bill upon the reception given to it by the whole House. I hope the Amendments to which I understand the hon. Gentleman has agreed will be considered in all their bearings when we go upstairs because I am afraid some of them will meet with very strong opposition. The whole of the criticism of this Bill arises from the employers' societies. I. would like them to bear in mind that this is national insurance and that it was not for specially selected people in employers' societies that the Bill was introduced. The Bill was first introduced for the purpose of looking after those for whom absolutely no provision was made. We all know that employers' societies look after their staff. In many cases there is medical examination before they are taken on, and they have an easy way of watching and detecting malingering and of detecting and watching sickness. They raise a terrible cry with regard to the creation of a special risks fund to cover special risks protesting that it will invade the surpluses of well-managed societies. Every one of these societies receives its proportion of the grant from the general taxpayer. They all receive two-ninths. The employers' societies do not protest against taking it. At the beginning of the Act liberty was given to every workman to select his own society. The whole Act was framed on the model adopted by the old friendly societies. I would like to remind the House that one thing was distinctly understood. If the employer and the employé jointly paid 7d. per week in the case of men and 6d. per week in the case of women, there was a benefit of 10s. per week for men and of 7s. 6d. per week for women. The main purpose of this special risks fund is to secure that minimum benefit to all.

I have had some experience of the working of these societies, and I find that there are special classes of employment which, due to no fault of their own or any want of supervision, have an exceptional sickness incidence. I take the society with which I am associated myself. It has been discovered that in one particular class of textile work the sickness benefit is enormous, whereas in another class of textile work you do not find any abnormal sickness. Is this act, which was introduced for all people, to penalise those in dangerous or hazardous employment? The Ryan Committee considered carefully the best way of dealing with the matter, and they decided upon what is called the special risks fund. I do not know what the name May be eventually, but I do not see any objection to calling it the special risks fund. The scheme was that any society which found it was unable to pay the minimum benefit of 10s. to men and 7s. 6d. to women should make application to the Commissioners, and would have to prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioners that the deficiency was not created by any laxity of administration, but was due entirely to their having a large number of people in this particular class of work. Is it an extraordinary thing to ask that the employers' societies and the other societies of the favoured class should pay their contribution towards the special risks fund? That is the only thing that is asked. The second fund to be appealed to is the contingencies fund, which is an alternative fund created for the benefit of the society. A small portion of the contingencies fund is set apart, so that if on a second valuation it is discovered that there is a deficiency the contingency fund will be first called upon by the society before it can go to the special risks fund. Therefore, a society must exhaust all its own funds and still find itself unable to pay the 10s. and the 7s. 6d. before it can go to the special risks fund.

It has been urged that the contingencies fund might be raided at some period for something else. The argument put forward by the last speaker is that the well- managed societies—he spoke especially for the small societies—have not been safeguarded by this Bill. I would recall the-fact that under the present Act, as was explained by the Minister in charge of the Bill, those societies which have a membership of between 1,000 and 5,000 are pooled. They are absolutely compelled to pool for valuation, and their surplus, or a large proportion of it, is taken. Under the present scheme those societies with a membership of over 1,000 can have their own separate valuation. That will be a great advantage to those societies. The societies when pooled can only call upon the contingencies fund. I will not go into the question of the finance of the Bill, except to say that experience has taught those who have been dealing with the administration that the cost of women's sickness benefit, especially married women's sickness benefit, would leave practically every society insolvent. At the inquiry held by the Ryan Committee the representative of every society who was examined—the employers' societies had a witness there to state their views—stoutly maintained that he would not allow the women's benefit to be reduced so long as there was, a single penny in the men's fund that could be used, and that if there was to be any reduction in the one case there should be a reduction in the other. In other words, they desired to retain thin old principle of the friendly societies that all the members should stand or fall together. Would anybody now ask that these societies should be called upon to face the burden of the increased cost of women's sickness without a Grant being obtained from the Treasury for that purpose?

We have heard a good deal of discussion about the simplification that is taking place. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) made a mistake when he said that soldiers were entitled to all the benefits of the Act. That is not. correct. They are only entitled to them when they are discharged from the Army. Societies receive, so far as administration is concerned, only one-half of the Grant which is paid for ordinary members. In dealing with the simplification we discovered that much money was expended by societies with a different class of contributors. The question was raised of a woman going out of insurance, coming back again, and having to pay a large contribution—that is, those who were voluntarily insured. In order to get over that difficulty the societies have strongly urged that all the voluntary contributors at present should make a uniform contribution, because the number of the various classes described by the Minister in charge of the Bill would satisfy an ordinary man, if lie looked at the books which would have to be kept, that the administration allowance was exceedingly small compared with the work that would have to be accomplished. I had intended to deal with a number of other points, but as they have been covered by previous speakers I will merely add that I am in hearty agreement with the compliments that have been paid to the Minister in charge, who has given. a good deal of time to the matter, and has:shown a great deal of tact, a quality which does not always distinguish Ministers in this House. He has met the different contending parties, and has arrived at agreements on matters which, if there had been no agreement, would have given the House endless trouble.


I desire to join the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) in his suggestion that the hon. Gentleman in charge of this measure should accept the fact that so few Members are, here, if not as a compliment, at any rate as evidence of the confidence they feel in him and those responsible for this measure. It is obvious, in regard to a Bill with over forty Clauses, that if there were any strong opposition felt towards it, that opposition would be made manifest at the first opportunity. However that may be, so far as people outside are concerned, if the post-bag is any evidence of the interest they take in the Bill, every Member of the House must have received, as I have, dozens of letters during the last three or four days asking them to support this measure. I rise mainly for the purpose of asking the hon. Gentleman a question with regard to a matter which is within his knowledge, but which has not been met in this Bill, namely, with regard to the refusal of a panel doctor to attend a patient in a certain case. I will relate the incident very briefly. It occurred in Preston. A mill worker had been a contributor for some long time, and had not received one farthing of benefit under the Act. The time came when it was necessary for her to have the services of the panel doctor during confinement, and this panel doctor absolutely refused to attend her. In her difficulty she or her husband found other panel doctors, but not one of these men would attend her. The husband, a soldier back on leave, found his wife's panel doctor passing the door and made an appeal to him to come and attend his wife. The doctor again refused. The result was that the woman had to be taken three miles away to an infirmary, and eventually both she and her child died. It seems to me that when you are amending an Act of this kind some provision might be made, and whereby in. a case where a patient desires to have her own panel doctor there should be some compulsion on him to attend. I leave it at that, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider the point.


I also desire to express not only my own view but that of all insurance people with whom I have come in contact with regard to the tact, consideration, and businesslike ability that the hon. Gentleman has shown, and to congratulate him on the success which up to this point he has attained in dealing with a great variety of extraordinarily thorny questions. I should not have thought it necessary to speak at this stage at all, but that on behalf of rural societies dealing with rural matters I think it necessary to make their position quite plain, so far as I understand it. They are in an exceptional position in more ways than one. Perhaps I can best illustrate it by explaining the position of a society with which I am connected, the Scottish Rural Workers' Society. It holds a unique position among rural working societies, both as regards the number of its members, the difficulties of its management, and I think, probably, also as regards the surpluses which it has accumulated up to now, on account of the way those difficulties have been overcome by the voluntary help of the members. We have throughout Scotland about 70,000 members—men and women. We have scattered all over the agricultural and pastoral parts of Scotland some four or five hundred branch committees, each with a secretary through whom the local work is done. We have in Edinburgh a central staff, the very best that we can possibly provide, for the purpose of doing everything which could be done in the nature of administration and clerical work to relieve the local secretary of that class of work which it would be impossible to get secretaries in country districts to undertake. It has been built up with great success as regards the membership and also as regards the feeling which exists among its members of pride in their society. The fundamental principle upon which it was built up was that if the rural workers of Scotland combined and managed for themselves an approved society under the Act they would be rewarded by securing special benefits on account, in the first place, of economic and efficient management, and in the second place, of their exceptionally healthy condition.

I want to make it quite clear that we cannot be parties to anything which would infringe on the principle that the contributions made by these members and their employers, and the corresponding contribution promised from the State, shall belong to the members of the society. That seems to me to be a fundamental principle necessarily underlying the formation of a society such as I have described. If we were to be told that the surpluses which have been so built up were to be made available for making good deficiencies in other societies we should have led all these worthy people to do a very worthy thing, on the invitation which was generally held out by the Government at the time, under false pretences. I have had an opportunity of seeing generally the nature of the concessions proposed to be made, and my understanding of them is that the societies in which the hon. Member (Mr. Nugent) is interested, those which have to deal with specially dangerous trades, will not be a penny the worse by the alterations which my hon. Friend is going to make. He will get the money which was proposed to be given to him under the Bill. He will not get it from us, and by us I refer to societies which have surpluses, but I am sure he has no special desire to take it from them. If he gets it from another source he will probably be even better contented because I am sure he would not wish to raid our funds for +h' purpose of making good his deficit. That is my understanding of the arrangement. I therefore wish to make it quite clear that while we approve of this measure and are very desirous to see it passed. we associate ourselves with what has been said, that, we cannot recognise any right on the part of the State to take any part of the contributions of our members or their employers or. of the State which were promised in respect of them for the purpose of making good deficiencies in other societies.

The only other point I want to make relates to Scotland. It is with regard to the right of appeal against the decision of the Commissioners. In a society with an organisation such as I have described it is perfectly obvious that we can only go on if we can rely upon the Act of Parliament and the rules of the society which have been approved being carried out in every respect. It is upon the faith of this we have asked our people to join, and we therefore consider that upon legal questions with regard to the society it is essential we should feel sure—and we do not think we are sure, seeing that we have to depend on the decision of the Insurance Commissioners on any questions that may arise—questions to which we attach real importance—that we are upon the right lines; otherwise we may on some fine day discover that some view taken by the Insurance Commissioners with regard to the rules of the society is not a sound one. I am not going to enter into individual eases, but there have been cases where action has been taken by the Commissioners upon which very strong advice has been received by the society concerned to the effect that it is not consistent with the Act or with the rules of the society.

My point is that there is an appeal in England, Wales, and Ireland, and Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom where there is no such appeal. I thing the right of appeal was left out for a reason which I, for one, can understand, and that was that according to the ordinary arbitration law of Scotland if an arbitrator is appointed his decision is final and has to be accepted on any question of law. But in England, Ireland, and Wales it is different. If people have a difference and each side agrees to the selection of some neutral person who is in no way connected with the dispute and who shall settle the question, they agree that the decision shall be binding—they are bound by his report, except on questions of law. It is entirely a different matters where you have a body of Commissioners charged with administrative duties in connection with the very question under dispute. Very often indeed the dispute is as to the action of the Commissioners themselves, and it certainly does not seem right that they should be the final judges with regard to their own actions. We regard this as a vital point, and I am unable to see what answer the hon. Gentleman can give to it.

I should think the last persons in the world who would wish that their decision should be made final are the Commissioners themselves. They surely would take the right-minded view which other people take in these matters—the view of declining to act as judges where their own administration is involved. This is, at any rate, the attitude of the ordinary business man, and I think myself that this proposition only requires to be stated to commend itself to the Government. The reason I attach such great importance to it is this. Our organisation has a highly paid staff of managers and other officials, centralised in Edinburgh. It has been built up with skill so as to be sufficient to provide for all the requirements of a body doing business all over Scotland, and if, through any misreading, either of the Act or of the rules, any considerable body of our members were to be dissatisfied and to leave the society, we should be left with an organisation far too big and far too expensive for the work to be done. It is peculiarly a matter of importance to a society like ours that there should be absolutely impartial decisions on any points arising out of the Act and affecting our society or our rules. I must apologise for speaking at some length with regard to my own society. I have no authority to speak for it, for I do not know that there has been any meeting of the general body on this subject, but I have discussed the point with a great many people, and I find amongst them strong opinion that we ought to have an appeal in Scotland in the same way as one obtains in other parts of the United Kingdom. Reserving my right of action in Committee on this point, I beg to support the Second Reading of this Bill.


I have been asked by several societies to speak in support of this Bill, but I do not intend to detain the House many minutes. I would like to say a word, however, in regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman), relative to cases of panel doctors refusing to attend members in cases of emergency. I think with the hon. Member that such refusals should not be permitted, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will take care that such instances shall not occur in the future. As an Irish Member, I was somewhat surprised to hear the complaint of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke. I always thought that Scotsmen had the best of everything in this House. They are better able to take care of themselves than the average Saxon or Irishman. Scripture tells us to ask and we shall receive, and I have always thought that Scotsmen had only to ask the House of Commons for anything in order to get it. I can only say that I wish this Bill happy progress through the House.


I, too, have been asked to support this Bill. I have been requested by my colleagues with whom I am associated on this bench to do so, and I will do it very briefly. I must take exception to what the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) has said with regard to the position of certain societies in Scotland. He should remember that this Bill is of a national character, and if there are workpeople in certain occupations who are in a more advantageous position as far as sickness is concerned than other people, they ought, I suggest, to be prepared to bear their fair proportion of the burden. There are a large number of people in this country working in unhealthy trades and in dangerous occupations, and if there are other people enjoying the advantages referred to by my hon. Friend, I do not think they ought to be relieved of their share of the national burden. I have no doubt my hon. Friend would not agree to transfer the people he refers to to the Pottery area, but I do ask him to bear in mind that the purpose of this Act and of this Amending Bill is to promote the national health, and public money, too, is concerned in the matter. Therefore, the well-managed societies, at least, ought to bear a share of the burden which falls upon societies liable to an excessive sickness rate. I think everybody will agree that the Memorandum accompanying this Bill is one of the clearest that has ever been issued; it gives us a plain, simple explanation which renders the Government proposal perfectly clear. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman responsible for the Bill ought to be satisfied with the knowledge that there is not a single approved society, or trade union, or benefit society in this kingdom which has any objection to the Bill, and that they are absolutely unanimous in the desire that it should be passed.

I wish to say a few words, however, with regard to the first Clause of the Bill, that relating to the financial readjustment in respect of the women, which is the greatest point in the Bill. Of course, it is quite true that when the original Bill was before the House it was impossible for the actuaries to get any sickness experience on which to base their calculations. That applied, I believe, to the men, but more particularly to the women. I am the president of a great trade union approved society, and we have been very much affected by the excessive sickness rate among the women. if the original Act did one thing more than another it demonstrated that in this country there is a large number of women engaged in occupations that really they ought not to be allowed to be engaged in if we had any regard to the future of the race, apart from the women themselves. We suspected, for instance, that there was malingering, and to satisfy ourselves from the purely business point of view we sent down people. They came back with the most lamentable and tragic reports that I have ever looked at yet of cases of women who were driven to work, for instance, early after giving birth to children. There was no possibility of those women ever being well again. The same thing applies to many of the industries in which women are engaged, and really I scarcely think now that ample financial provision has been made to meet what will be the excessive sickness among our women-folk, even as the result of this War. For instance, everyone knows that they go largely into the industries that the physical capacities of women cannot bear—into the factories making high explosives—and I dread to think what the result of that will be after the War. It will leave a lingering sickness, and the net result will be that approved societies will have to pay out considerable amounts. I want to put that point in to safeguard our position. It may be that the hon. Gentleman w ill have to come to the House later on and as the result of the large incursion of women into these industries now—particularly into the dangerous and hazardous industries and those which are really poisonous—ask for more money. I know the House will give him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer any amount of money they may want in that respect.

With regard to the simplification of the Act itself, which this Bill of course will bring into existence, as the hon. Gentle- man himself quite plainly stated, in view of the fact that largely workmen who have no clerical experience, and no public or book-keeping experience, were doing the work, there were great difficulties under the Act itself. The amount of books they had to keep and the figures they had to cope with made it utterly impossible for the ordinary average man who works at the bench or in a foundry in the daytime and has to administer this Act at night to deal with that kind of thing. In the sense that this Bill will completely simplify—and the figures the hon. Gentleman gave were very, very remarkable—it will lead to better administration, and on all hands I hear that the Bill is accepted by the approved societies, by the insured persons, and by everybody who has to administer the Act. These being the two main features of the Bill, personally, although there may be some need for Amendments, I hope that the Bill will get through and be placed on the Statute Book. On behalf of the people with whom I am connected inside and outside this House I wish to say that they have nothing but commendation for the Bill, and that they wish to support it.

Sir WORTHINGTON EVANS (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. of Munitions)

We have listened to-day to some very interesting speeches in a House which is very unlike the old House in which we used to discuss the Insurance Bill. This Bill, at any rate, seems to be almost entirely an agreed Bill, for tire comments we have heard are really Committee points. I do not think there is a single point that has been made that cannot quite well be dealt with in detail in Committee, and I do not propose to delay the House in attempting to go over the various points made with the idea of replying to them now, because I believe that would be better done in Committee. There are really two points to which I want to refer—one the question of the small societies, which has been brought before the House by three or four Members speaking from different points of view. I think everybody must be now satisfied that the fears expressed in regard to the small societies are now, at any rate, entirely ungrounded. The one other point was one to which I am bound to refer, because it has had quite considerable publicity in circulars which have been addressed to, Members of this House with regard to the Clauses in the Bill which, according to the circular, put in jeopardy the surpluses of the solvent societies and throw on those surpluses a risk due to the deficiencies of other societies. The Bill itself declares in one of its very early Clauses that there was no intention of doing anything of the sort that was stated to be feared by that circular, but the discussions to-day surely show, without it being possible to have any further fear, that there is no charge whatever upon the surpluses of solvent societies to make up the deficiencies of insolvent societies. If there were any such charge I frankly say I would not be at this box, but I have not any doubt whatever that there is no such effect under the Bill as it now stands. It is quite true that the sinking fund is in part diverted, but that sinking fund was never available for the purpose of going to any society except after the period when the reserve values would have been redeemed, a period of not less than twenty years, afterwards extended to twenty-two. The effect of the sinking fund is to bring the benefit nearer to the insured person, because after the seven years the surplus that will arise from the contingencies fund will be capable of providing immediate benefits. The real effect, therefore, from the point of view of the insured person of this raid on the sinking fund is that instead of an additional benefit being postponed for twenty-two years, as it was under the 1913 Act, it will be brought within reach at the end of about seven years. Moreover, the House will remember that when that happens and the benefit is distributed the State two-ninths comes in, so that as far as the insured person is concerned he receives the benefit earlier under the provisions of this Bill than he would have received it under the old Bill. I think those are the only two points I need deal with, because, as I say, the rest are Committee points, and I would only like to express on, behalf of my hon. Friend his great gratitude to the House for the kind way in which the House has dealt with, and the easy passage that it has so far given to, this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.