HC Deb 09 April 1919 vol 114 cc2138-40

(1) This Act may be cited as the Ministry of Health Act, 1919, and shall come into operation upon such day or days as may be appointed by Order in Council, and different days may be appointed for different purposes and provisions of this Act: Provided that the latest day for the transfer of powers to the Minister under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of this Act shall not be later than one year after the passing of this Act: Provided that the day appointed for the transfer of the powers of the Minister of Pensions shall not be earlier than one year after the termination of the present War.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), after the word "year" ["shall not be earlier than one year"], to insert the words or not later than three years. I move this Amendment to carry out an understanding arrived at by which I promised to insert these words.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the third time.


I want first of all to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the successful way in which he has piloted this Bill through. Those who were associated with the early stages of this measure know that it is not only now that the right hon. Gentleman has worked hard, but for very many months, and almost years, he has been plodding away endeavouring to get something like agreement on this all-important question, and if any evidence were needed as to the changed spirit it is to be found not only in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague, the Under-Secretary, have met the opponents and supporters of this Bill, but the magnificent spirit they have displayed in such an important matter. That is evidenced not only in this House, but, what is far more important, in the change that has already been brought about in that particular Department.

Many of us would have despaired for any success in regard to this Bill under the old regime of the Local Government Board. I want to take this opportunity of saying that those of us responsible for the negotiations on this Bill had a very clear and definite assurance that so far as Clause 3 is concerned it was not intended as camouflage. The trade unions and friendly societies were only brought to consider this Bill on the distinct understanding—in fact, it was a promise made by the Prime Minister—that effect would be given to what is is called the reform of the Poor Law. The feeling of the friendly society and trade union members is that these matters of insurance ought not to be associated with or affected by any Poor Law taint. They understand that the Government not only pledge themselves, but, if any attempt is made in another place to interfere with these words and this promise, that they will resist it. I hope that no attempt will be made, because the present state of things is such that we ought to feel that if the Government make a promise the Government intend to give effect to that promise. Nothing can be worse than to have charges of breach of faith hurled at the Government. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will be able to say here and now that he agrees that we were promised definitely and clearly that effect would be given to what is called the Maclean Report, that an early attempt would be made to reform the Poor Law, and that the Government intend the words in Clause 3 as definitely committing them to a policy. Speaking on behalf not only of my own party, but, I believe, of all sections of the House, I hope that he will give that assurance. I can only repeat our congratulations to both Ministers for their success in this very big Bill. We hope that this is the first step towards creating that new England that all of us have been talking about for a very long time.


I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend and I are indebted to my right hon. Friend very deeply for what he has said with regard to this Bill and our share of work in connection with it. As he well knows, it had been the subject of long, and anxious, and difficult conferences before it came into Parliament at all. It is just as much a source of satisfaction to him, I am sure, as it is to us that it has now reached the last stage. Our success in dealing with the Labour organisations was in no small measure due to his constant and loyal assistance. The pledge which the Government gave was a deliberate pledge, given by the Cabinet after mature consideration, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it was embodied in Clause 3 of the Bill. The Government made that pledge deliberately after the most careful consideration of the issues involved. They stand by it, and the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends need have no misgiving, so long as we retain the confidence of the House, that we have any intention of retreating from a position which we have taken up on a most important matter of public policy, and which we have gone out of our way to embody in this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.