HC Deb 24 February 1921 vol 138 cc1270-8 Sub-section (2) of Section forty-one of the principal Act (which relates to the fixed number of contributions to be credited to seamen, marines, soldiers, and airmen discharged from the service after the thirty-first day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty) shall have effect as if for the words "be ninety" there were therein substituted the words "in the case of men discharged before the third day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, be ninety and in the case of men discharged on or after that date be one hundred and fifty-six," and as though after the word "opinion" there were inserted the words "in either such case."—[Dr. Macnamara.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.0 P.M.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Under Section 41 of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920, sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines discharged after 31st July, 1920, are credited with 90 unemployment contributions at the expense of the Service Department That was an arrangement which my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Clynes) will remember. This number of 90 contributions entitled them to 15 weeks' benefit and full insurance. The present Amendment increases the 90 contributions to 156 contributions, entitling to 26 weeks' benefit the men discharged on and after 3rd July, 1922.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

First Schedule ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Enactment to be Amended. Nature of Amendment.
Section 17 For the words "is at least one-third greater than" in proviso (a) to Sub-section (1) there shall be substituted the words "exceeds by at least fire shillings per week "in the case of men, four shillings per week in the "case of women, two shillings and sixpence per week "in the case of boys, and two shillings per week in "the case of girls."
Section 18 In Sub-section (10) for the words "Sub-section (5) of this Section" there shall be substituted the words "Sub-section (7) of this Section."
Section 47 At the end of Sub-section (1) there shall be inserted the following new paragraph:—
"(g) The expression 'day' moans a period of twenty-four hours from midnight to midnight or such other period of twenty-four hours as the Minister may for any general or special purpose prescribe."
First Schedule In paragraph (d) of Part II. for the words "the employed person is not subject to dismissal" there shall be substituted the words "the persons employed are not "under the normal practice of the employer subject "to the risk of dismissal," and for the words "the "terms and conditions in which the employed person "is engaged" there shall be substituted the words "the employed person has completed throe years' "service in the employment, and that the terms and "conditions on which he was engaged and will "continue to be employed." and the following words shall be added at the end of the paragraph:—"Provided that where the employed person is not "under the terms of his contract subject to dismissal "except for misconduct or for neglect in the per "formance of, or unfitness to perform his duties, the "foregoing provision in respect to three years' service "shall not apply."
Second Schedule In paragraph (6) for the words "so as to increase the "rate of benefit above seventeen shillings per week "for men, or above fourteen shillings per week for "women, or to reduce it below thirteen shillings per "week for men or below ton shillings per week for "women, or so as to increase the period of unemployment benefit above fifteen weeks" there shall be substituted the words "so as to increase the rate of "benefit above twenty shillings per week for men or "above sixteen shillings per week for women, or to "reduce it below fifteen shillings per week for men "or below twelve shillings per week for women, or so "as to increase the period of unemployment benefit "above twenty-six weeks."

I beg to move, in the paragraph beginning "First Schedule," to leave out the words the employed person is not subject to dismissal" there shall be substituted the words "the persons employed are not under the normal practice of the employer subject to the risk of dismissal," and for the words "the terms and conditions in which the employed person is engaged" there shall be substituted the words "the employed person has completed three years' service in the employment, and that the term* and conditions on which he was engaged and will continue to be employed. and to insert instead thereof the words the employment is in his opinion having regard to the normal practice of the employer permanent in character that the employed person has completed three years' service in the employment and that the other circumstances of his employment make it unnecessary that he should be insured under this Act. I am not moving the Amendment which stands in my name on the paper making it unnecessary that under certain circumstances certain men should be insured under this Act. Instead of that I am proposing the Amendment I have read. I understand my right hon. Friend is prepared to accept it. The objects of these words is to practically give effect to this Amendment of the Act to what was the intention in the original Act. The House will remember that in the original Act it was clearly intended that railwaymen whose work was of a more permanent character than practically any other class of employés should be exempted from the provisions of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman and myself agreed to a Clause in that Bill that we were both satisfied would moot the position. Unfortunately, when the time arrived to give effect to the Clause, certain railway companies refused to accept it, or refused to give the undertaking that my right hon. Friend demanded. It is only fair to say that the three trade unions involved had themselves by agreement with the railway companies accepted the position. Therefore, the object of this Amendment is to make it perfectly clear what was in the original Act, and I am empowered to say, speaking at least for a number of the railway companies—I will not include them all—that they, as well as the trade unions, agreed to accept these words.


The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour looked over to me as though expecting or inviting me to say something. All I want to say on this matter is that it has not been before the Railway Companies' Association, of which I have the honour to be Deputy-Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman opposite is quite correct in saying some of the railway companies have agreed to this Amendment—I do not know how many—but I am also quite correct in saying that other of the railway companies have not agreed to it, and do not intend to.


This, I take it, applies to other classes of persons besides those employed by railway companies. It applies to those who are employed by local or public authorities, to the police force, to servants of public utility companies, and to those who have the right to claim on superannuation funds. The point I want to make is this: that in connection with public utility companies, and it may be other companies, and certainly in connection with local or other public authorities, a young man, sometimes to improve his position in life, leaves one company or authority and takes employment with mother. The result may be that in three years he has been in the. employment of three different public authorities. What these people are concerned about is whether the three years' service, with three different authorities, will be counted as three years' continuous employment. I think they are entitled to ask that the three years should come as continuous employment. Supposing a young fellow is employed by the Camberwell Borough Council, and he applies for a job under the Shoreditch Council, and after working there some time he gets a job under the Lambeth Council. What these people want is that their service under three public authorities shall count as three years' service, and if the right hon. Gentleman could make it clear that in granting exemptions from the payment of these contributions he will take this point into consideration it will be satisfactory. I think three years' continuous employment in the same class of work ought to cover that point.


Part II of the First Schedule of the main Act uses the term "excepted employment," and it means employment under any local authority or other public authority, or in the service of a railway company or public utility company, and so on. The governing phrase is, where the Minister certifies that the employed person is not subject to dismissal except for misconduct or neglect, or unfitness to perform his duties. But there is no provision for the case of dismissal because there is no work. There is no provision for that, and it might be that a person and being exempted for the reason stated here, might very well have a claim for wrongful dismissal. To remedy that the right hon. Gentleman substitutes the words of this Amendment. I was very hopeful that we should have got a common form, but I do not know any better words than those put forward by my right hon. Friend. I understand that there is some measure of disagreement on the part of some of the railway companies. With regard to what the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Wilson) has said and the case he gave of a man being a year under one local authority and going to another for another year and then doing another year under a third authority, I am afraid I cannot accept that proposal. If I did, anybody might say that, and then where is your Insurance Act? I think that is far too serious a proposal, because there is no limit to it. Anybody could come and say, "I want to be exempted," because they have been at three jobs. I see no other words to meet the position better than those suggested by. my right hon. Friend.


As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman wants to know definitely what is the measure of agreement. When we came to apply the original Act the right hon. Gentleman met a deputation representing the railway companies and the whole of the unions involved. As we understood, and we have no reason to assume anything to the contrary, the representatives of the railway companies were speaking for the whole of the companies.




That is the difficulty we, are always in with regard to these matters. All I wish to say is that there was no departure on that occasion from the arrangements we always make under the assumption that we are dealing with the whole of the railway companies. So far as we were concerned, we understood we were dealing with the whole of the railway companies, with the result that the Minister of Labour and ourselves arrived at an agreement. Immediately that agreement was made, and circularised to the men, a certain railway company took legal opinion. They went to counsel, and they said, "We want a legal opinion on this matter." You can always get a legal opinion when you are prepared to pay for it. That legal opinion said in substance that what my right hon. Friend and myself had agreed to was wrong. Then it was followed by another company saying, "We will not act in accordance with that agreement." When my right hon. Friend introduced this Bill he immediately consulted both sides, including the railway companies and ourselves, and he said, "Now is the opportunity to put this difficulty right." I submit to the House that that was a common-sense method of dealing with the matter at the time when we were having an Amending Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman invited both sides to meet him. He invited the representatives of the whole of the railway company. We met again two days ago at the Ministry of Labour, and it was agreed that words should be drawn up to meet the situation. Those words were again agreed to, and afterwards, to the surprise of some of us, it was discovered that there was some objection to those words. The result was that afterwards we were told those words would not meet the position. What followed was that there were further negotiations yesterday and to-day between myself and the solicitor to the Railway Companies Association, and at 6.30 to-night I received a letter from the Railway Companies' Association solicitor, after I had sent him these words, informing me that they are perfectly satisfactory so far as the companies are concerned, and he confirms that opinion in writing. That is the measure of agreement. I knew the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) would disagree, but, speaking generally, there is an almost complete measure of agreement between the railway companies and ourselves. Notwithstanding what the right hon. Baronet says, he must do his worst, and we must face the consequences.


No, I will not do my worst, I will endeavour to do my best. I have been in consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and some of his officials on this matter and I must say that I have been met in a conciliatory spirit. I regret we could not come to an agreement. With regard to the speech of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in the first place I may inform the Committee that I am Deputy-Chairman of the Railway Companies' Association. I knew nothing about this till yesterday afternoon. I have seen Lord Churchill, the Chairman of the Association, and he too knew nothing about it. Mr. Andrews is not solicitor to the Railway Companies' Association. He has nothing whatever to do with it. He was solicitor to the London and North Western Railway Company, but he left that and is acting now for the Minister of Transport. He has no authority to net. for the Railway Association.


Or for the railway general managers?


Certainly not. The Council of the Railway Association has not been consulted. The Railway Association itself has not been consulted, neither have the Committee of Nine, of which I am a member—a Committee set up a year and a half to deal with various transport matters. I only mention these facts in order to show there has been a misunderstanding, which I hope will not occur in future. I must point out to the right hon. Member for Derby in the first place, that the Railway Companies' Association cannot act for the whole of the companies, even if the Railway Companies' Association agree, unless the Council also agree, and in no case can it do that unless the chairman and the deputy-chairman have been consulted. Mr. Andrews is not an official. Again, you cannot take the opinion of the general managers and say that they bind the companies. The general managers do not bind the Association. The only body which can bind the Association is the Council or, perhaps, in certain exceptional circumstances, the chairman and deputy chairman.


I only want to observe, so far as the country generally is concerned, they do not, I am sure, understand anything about the Railway Chairman, but they do know that the railways are generally controlled by the General Managers, and the House must judge for itself when I repeat that it is the General Managers of the railway companies that have entered into the negotiations which I have indicated, and entered into them at the request of the right hon. Gentlemen on both sides. As to whether they exceeded their duties, all I have to say is that the country generally assume it is not the Chairmen of the railway companies that run the companies, but it is the General Managers.


Then they assume wrongly.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In paragraph beginning "Second Schedule," leave out "twenty" ["benefit above twenty shillings"] and insert "twenty-two."

Leave out "sixteen" ["above sixteen shillings"] and insert "seventeen."

Leave out "fifteen" ["below fifteen shillings'] and insert "seventeen."

Leave out "twelve" ["below twelve shillings"] and insert "fourteen."— [Dr. Macnamara.]

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.


Is there not a manuscript Amendment which has been handed in, still to be dealt with?


I am sorry that we passed that by. I understood that the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Derby was to take its place. It is too late to move it now, but it may be moved on Report.

Bill reported.

As amended, considered.