§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1.—(Rates of unemployment benefit.)
Paragraph 1 of the Second Schedule to the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1920 (in this 1198 Act referred to as "the principal Act"), which provides that unemployment benefit shall, subject as thereinafter provided, be at the weekly rate of fifteen shillings for men and twelve shillings for women or such other weekly rates as may be prescribed, shall have effect as - though eighteen shillings and fifteen shillings respectively were therein substituted for fifteen shillings and twelve shillings.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move, to leave out the wordseighteen shillings and fifteen shillings respectively were therein substituted for fifteen shillings and twelve shillings,and to insert instead thereof the words,for the rates specified therein there wore substituted the following:—
|For the head of a family||40s.|
|For other than the head of a family||25s.|
|For each person wholly dependent upon a person entitled to benefit under the principal Act or this Act||5s."|
§ The most appropriate way in which I can open the Debate on the, Committee stage of this Bill is by expressing to Mr. Speaker our sense of thankfulness, not merely on behalf of hon. Gentlemen behind me, but on behalf of all the Members of this House, for the great thought-fulness and sympathy with the unemployed which prompted the ruling and advice given by him earlier from the Chair, with regard to a proposal to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House. Had that ruling not been given, the effect might have been to delay the payment of benefits to unemployed persons at least one week, and I am sure the Committee will desire me to express our thankfulness to Mr. Speaker for his kind consideration.
§ The Bill of which we are now considering the Committee stage is submitted to the House as a temporary measure to deal with what, we trust, is a momentary, though difficult, situation. It is strange that we have already had arguments from both sides of the House against the rate of benefit which is proposed from this side, for the reason that this is a temporary measure. I take the very opposite view. I take the view that, though a measure needs to be temporary to meet a temporary situation, it needs to be sufficient and not inadequate to meet that situation. There is one advantage I have in submitting this first Amendment considerably to raise the figure of unemploy- 1199 ment benefit. It is the advantage that everyone in the House who has referred to this figure in the Bill admits that it is too low a figure of benefit wherewith to support the ordinary needs of the humblest homes in Britain. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman himself would claim that this figure of 18s. a week is sufficient in the sense that it is adequate to meet even the barest needs. I think I may claim that by common consent the figure in the Bill is admittedly too low for the purpose for which it is intended and therefore we propose to raise it. The figure which I submit of 40s. for the head of a family is a figure approved by the Labour Conference, and I am going to argue the question in relation to this figure of 40s. without going into the details that cover the various other figures which are consequent upon it.
§ It may be said from some quarters of the House that to give 40s. a week to those who have a claim on the ground that they are unemployed will ensure the continuance of idleness, because such a figure would tempt many people to shirk work because they could get 40s. by remaining idle. I am not going to address myself merely to one side of the case. I know that there are two, and no case is strengthened by giving attention only to one. It is clear, by proofs which have been adduced in this House, that thorn are cases—I do not know whether few or many, but, certainly, there are cases of people who even now by the benefits at present being paid are tempted to shirk jobs which in my judgment they ought to take. But we are not without a remedy in regard to the shirking, and if we are to increase substantially the amount of weekly benefit, we must strengthen the Regulations and there must be closer attention to the administration of the payment of benefit on lines which make it impossible to encourage idleness. Organised labour. I am certain, together with the employers, if both were called more into touch with the administration of the payment of benefits, could be of very great assistance in locating the shirker and in making it impossible to get money when work could have been got. I think, generally speaking, it is true that labour would be as careful in the administration of State money as it would be in the administration of its own, and 1200 in very many instances, I do not know in how many, but certainly in a very large number of cases, of persons who are to receive benefit, the trade unions have to pay some portion of their own benefit as well—some portion of their own funds as well—and, in addition to the instinct, which is inherent in labour and trade union administration, of discouraging the shirker.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
On a point of Order. I understand the right hon. Gentleman is moving to increase the benefit from 18s. to 40s. I should like to know whether the effect of this would be to put an increased contribution upon the State. If the effect of it is to put an increased contribution upon the State I submit that it is out of order. If, on the other hand, the effect of the Amendment is merely to put a contribution upon the fund and to render the fund bankrupt, which would be the effect of it, possibly the Amendment might be in order, but as this is such a very important point I think it would be advisable to get a ruling from the Chair upon the matter.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have, of course, considered this Amendment from the point of view taken by the right hon. Baronet. It appears to me that the effect of the Amendment, if carried, would not be in itself to increase the Treasury contribution and therefore no duty lies upon the Chair to intervene in declining to put the question to the Committee. As to its effect, whether or not it would bankrupt the funds, that is a matter for argument, but not for the Chair. It is an answer, if true, to be made by the Government, and the Committee must take its decision. It is not one of those questions in which the Chair declines to put the question because it involves a contribution beyond the sum authorised in the Money Resolution.
§ Sir E. CARSON
If the Amendment were carried, if the State is not liable to pay the additional contribution towards the money, where is the money to come from, and is it useful to discuss an Amendment which could have no practical results if the State cannot be called upon to pay the additional contribution?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is a matter of the merits of the Amendment, with which the Chair is not concerned. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to put it before the Committee.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I rather feared that some such point of order as the right hon. Baronet has brought forward would be raised, and I am glad of the shelter of your ruling to enable the Committee to proceed with the discussion of this question, for I submit that even though this Amendment, if carried, would compel a re-modelling of the financial provisions of the Bill, on the other hand it is worth while to discuss this matter, even though we anticipate it will not be carried at all, for very often discussions in this House serve some useful purpose, and if we never had to discuss anything unless we were certain of the fruit of the result the House would have much more spare time than it now has. It is not put forward for election purposes, or if it be, then our case can quite easily be taken from us by meeting this demand and giving the Government the credit of doing so handsome a thing for the unemployed. It will ensure a longer lease of life for the Coalition. We would not mind even continuing the life of the Coalition for a little time longer if we could relieve the enormous suffering and misery now being endured by millions of the unemployed class. There are things which may be said, things of some substance, I hope, in support of this Amendment. When a similar measure was considered in a very mixed Committee upstairs last year, that Committee went higher than the figure in the Bill. It went to the length of 20s. Since that time working-class difficulties have increased in relation to prices and the general question of the cost of living. Further, the Committee upstairs, untrammelled by any of the restraints of such Government or Ministerial leadership as Members of the House of Commons feel when they are acting in this House, felt that the figure of 20s. was far too low and that if money could have been found—I am not going to leave that side of the question out of my remarks—the feeling was that the figure of 20s. was far too low, and what, for the moment, I am putting to the House is that on all hands there seems to be held the view that 18s. will not do, and some very much higher figure is, therefore, a sensible proposal.
These are days when the general demand is for economy. There is a universal assent to this doctrine that the truest economy is often the wisest spend- 1202 ing. Saving is frequently not economy at all. It leads to waste and to loss. I put to this Committee this view, that the future wealth resources of this country depend upon physique, a state of health and a condition of efficiency on the part of the mass of the wealth producer. If now they are underfed and improperly housed, if they have not good food and clothing for the next half-year or twelve months during which the privation of unemployment may be endured, they would be the less healthy, less efficient and less physically fit for the work which will have to face them in later years, and it is therefore true to say that it is worth the while of the State to pay at the right time. The right hon. Gentleman is proposing 18s. now because 15s. would no longer do. It may be that in a few months he will will come forward and propose some figure higher than 18s. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and ourselves is largely that he comes nearer and nearer to us in doing the right thing, but he tends to do it at the wrong time. He does it when it is a little too late, and we suggest to do the right thing now and not six or twelve months hence when you have conditions of deterioration of inefficiency, of a lowered physique and a less efficient body of wealth producers among the working classes than you have at present. I have no doubt hon. Members will say in answer to any of my statements that, if the figure of 18s. be too low, the figure of 40s. is too high. I am conscious that, judging by things which have found their way into the Press, there are people who look upon this figure of 40s. of weekly benefit as a fanciful proposal altogether, and as something, if not outrageous, certainly extravagant and improper.
Look at it on its merits. Before the War there was common agreement that the humblest worker, the ordinary labourer who swept the streets, should not have less than the barest living wage, and the barest living wage put by any humane social authority was not less than 30s. No one would say that a street sweeper should have less than 30s. Statistics and facts were gathered and proofs were adduced to impress that upon the national mind, and I doubt if there is any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who will dissent from that proposition. If, therefore, 30s. was the least that any ordinary humble labourer should receive as his weekly 1203 income before the War, it is not unreasonable now to propose a figure of unemployment benefit which would not amount to more than 15s. on pre-War value. The sum of 40s. now is worth no more than 15s. was worth before the War. What virtually we are asking for is to raise the benefit to a level which would be half as much as it was said the humblest labourer should have as his pre-War income for the most ordinary work that could be performed. On the merits of the 40s. we say that there is no extravagance that can be proved. There is no such thing as proposing a sum likely to cause any extensive shirking amongst the masses of the wage-earning population. There is already in practice in more than one firm schemes of unemployment insurance. One firm of which I know, a very extensive firm in York, has a scheme of unemployment insurance which gives the unemployed connected with that establishment a much larger weekly sum than is pro-nosed in my Amendment. What is paid in that instance is a sum equal to half the earnings of the workman, plus additional payments in the event of the workman having dependants, which might make his weekly allowance for unemployment benefit at least 75 per cent, of his wages. If that can be done and the firm which can do it can remain prosperous, I see no reason why the State should not proceed by way of Insurance Acts and be as good as any one of the best type employers in any part of the country.
The question is, where is the money to come from? I am not going merely to say that that is the business of the Government, though, indeed, that is quite a just and proper statement to make. It is the business of the Government to meet proven needs. It is admitted that 18s. is too low. I think I have proved to the Committee that the figure we are asking for does not exceed the pre-War value of 15s. No hon. Member would assert that on merits this figure is too high, and that it will do more than meet the humblest needs in the humblest homes. Therefore, it has become the duty of the Government so to raise its finances and so to provide State support, in addition to the contributions from the employers, and the employed has to provide the necessary means of paying the benefit which we propose. If this cannot be done immediately, I return to the reasonable 1204 suggestion which was made in last night's Debate. I come back to the fact that this measure is designed to meet a temporary situation. That situation may last 12 months or 6 months. This Bill is a Bill mainly to draw upon the resources of the past. My suggestion is that we should supplement the resources of the past by drawing upon the resources of the future. As a matter of administration it can be done. Funds have accumulated which now have given us resources exceeding £20,000,000. We are to draw upon these resources for the purpose of raising the benefit to 18s.
We hope and believe that this acute period of trade depression will disappear. Six, nine, or 12 months hence will find us emerged from these temporary difficulties, but it is in that period of trade depression that the physical suffering will occur and that physical deterioration and inefficiency will result. If we can hope for trade prosperity and believe that in 12 months or six months hence trade prosperity will return and we shall find that we have entered upon another period of making reserves, of building up great accumulations, my proposal to the Government is that just as they have resorted to the device of drawing upon past reserves they should devise means of drawing upon our future reserves, which are certain to accrue upon the basis of industrial prosperity and normal conditions of trade in the years that are ahead of us. That would be a piece of statesmanship and foresight of which the right hon. Gentleman is capable. I submit to the Committee that there is upon all grounds a case made out for my Amendment, and that there is no excuse or justification for fixing the unemployment benefit too low merely because it is a temporary Bill that we are dealing with to-day. The fact that the measure is a temporary measure is itself a justification and reason for raising the figure of benefit to such a level as will enable the workers to keep in conditions of fitness for the work that we are all anxious they should speedily resort to.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My right hon. Friend thinks that the obligation rests upon me to endeavour to ascertain much more closely than he sought to do where the resources would come from to pay the benefits which he proposes. All our insurance schemes have been based upon 1205 the contributory principle. The employed person, the employer and the State have contributed. Under the main Act of last year and under the Bill now before us the State adds one-fourth more than the combined contributions of employer and employed. My right hon. Friend wants to depart from that principle, otherwise he might have put on the Paper a proposal for increasing the contributions to meet the increased cost. He has not done that. There are Amendments on the Paper to reduce the contribution. I am bound to point out that my right hon. Friend obviously wants to depart from the principle to which I have alluded. He will not deny that. I am not quite sure that I appreciate where he would get his fund from. Would it all come from the State, or would it be found by each particular industry? If found by each particular industry, would it be the result of contributions made by the employers and the employed in that industry? I think I am entitled to an answer. These are questions which my right hon. Friend is bound to answer. I will assume, and I do not think I am far out, that it is in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that this ought to be a State charge. That is my assumption, based upon his speech, and he does not dissent. May I go further and say that by his silence he gives consent? My right hon. Friend does not estimate what this would cost. Of course it would bankrupt the fund.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
When my right hon. Friend gives me his estimate I will tell him how long the £20,000,000 in the fund will last. He has not given me his estimate. I suggest, with all respect, that it is not altogether business to put this proposal before us without telling us how the fund is to be built up, where the money is to come from, if the contributory principle is to be departed from, if it is to be a State charge or if it is to be found by the industry; if so, is it to be found out of the profits of the industry, which is one of his suggestions, I believe, or is it to be found by contributions as between employer and employed. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will say that 1206 it should be a State charge, that the State should meet it whatever it may cost, and why should I boggle at a charge on the Exchequer in the present state of affairs. To use a phrase of his own, "mortgage the credit of the State." That is a very easy thing to say, but does, my right hon. Friend realise that the more I mortgage the credit of the State the more I widen the gap between the nominal and real value of wages? We often hear it said that we must get back to real values in wages. Mortgaging the credit of the State by any number of millions would not help in that direction. The more I do that the more I widen and accentuate the gap between real and nominal values, which is already bad enough as a result of the smash up of human affairs due to the War. I am sure that with great sincerity my right hon.. Friend has presented a superficially rosy picture in putting in the Labour programme this scale of benefits, but that picture has a very disagreeable frame round it. My right hon. Friend is pleased, not for the first time—I do not complain—to belittle what the State is endeavouring to do in the direction of trying to find mitigation and alleviation of the hardship of unemployment. What have we endeavoured to do under the contributory system to which the State adds a quarter under the main Act to the contributions of employed and employers and will continue to add a quarter of the increased contributions provided for in this Bill? Between now and the end of June, 1922, the benefits payable under this Bill will amount to 45¼ millions of money.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Look at what the State has done and is doing. Since the Armistice the State has provided by way of out-of-work donations to civilians and ex-service men £62,000,000. Forty-five-and a quarter millions is the benefit payable under this Bill if and when it becomes law, and over and above finding £4,500,000 a year as the contribution of the Exchequer under the Act of 1920, which is its annual charge, this Bills adds to that £781,000 a year as the net result of the increased contributions by the State, and the Exchequer shoulders £2,000,000 over and above that from now to the end 1207 of June, 1922, in order to raise the ex-service man's benefit by 2s above the 18s. of the Insurance Act, making it 20s. as at present.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That £2,000,000 will be a capital charge from now to the end of June, 1922. Looking at all these figures—the £62,000,000 for out-of-work donation, the £4,500,000 for insurance, the £781,000 additional to that, the £2,000,000 for the ex-service men, and the £45,500,000—and remembering the terrific strain which the War has thrown upon the resources of the country, that is not a bad performance. It is out of all relation, as it ought to be, with anything that was ever attempted in the past as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and here we are, with all the deadly embarrassment of a war which cost this country more than all the wars which the British people ever previously engaged in put together, trying to make this provision. I do not think it can be said to be a provision which, after all, deserves the rather belittling comment of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes).
May I say, with great respect, I heartily concur in what he said, if it is competent for us to do so, in respect of the suggestion of Mr. Speaker as to the urgency of this Bill. It is imperative that, such as it is in the mind of my right hon. Friend, this provision should be made available at once. His proposal, as he must see, at once upsets the whole scheme and bankrupts the fund. As my right hon. Friend knows, the benefit is already exhausted both as regards the ex-service men and the civilian men and women who enjoy the benefits for which they have contributed under the Insurance Act. If it was ever true that he who gives quickly gives twice it is true now, and I do therefore appeal to my right hon. Friend not to delay the passage of this Bill unduly. But I wish to direct his attention to one point. If he says the 18s. is not enough—it was 7s. in the old days, and then 11s. and then 15s.—the path which I suggest he ought to pursue is to be found in Section 18 of the main Act, which lays down that if it appears that more satisfactory insurance can be secured in any industry than that 1208 provided in the Act it is open to employés and employers to get together and, on the foundation of this State provision, to build up a super-structure which would be more satisfactory to my right hon. Friend. I have over and over again stated, and I now state once more, that I will give every encouragement I can to the building up, through the special scheme provision which is to be found in Section 18 of the main Act, of the superstructure of an insurance against unemployment which, in any particular industry, if the employers and employés like to get together, will give them more adequate provision than the Act contains. In the circumstances I have no hesitation in asking the Committee to reject the Amendment.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I understand that the procedure of the House will make it impossible to take an Amendment which I have down in my name and in the name of the hon. Member for Newcastle, East (Major Barnes) if this Amendment is defeated, and therefore I would like to say a word or two on behalf of the alternative proposal to substitute 20s. instead of 18s. I am aware that yesterday when this suggestion was made, and made in all quarters of the House, the Minister was not able to consider it very favourably. He rather turned a deaf ear to it; but wisdom cometh in the morning, and I hope that on further reflection he may find it possible to meet the case so ably put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting for some increase, by accepting the Amendment substituting 20s. I think I can show in a word or two that it can be done without exceeding in any way the financial arrangements of the scheme. The Minister says he is going to find the money by taking £15,000,000 from the reserve fund of £20,000,000 which has accumulated since the original Act was passed. If we are going to take £15,000,000 from £20,000,000, there is no great principle involved in taking the other five, which is the amount required, according to the Minister, in order to make the 18s. up to 20s. during the next year. I submit the point the Committee should consider is the position of the country in the immediate present and during the next twelve months. We are as the right hon. Gentleman has said, passing through a great industrial crisis, and it behoves us from every point of 1209 view to meet that to the fullest extent possible. I submit it would be perfectly sound finance to take the risk which I suggest. We took risks during the War to win the War. Surely we can take risks to establish peace at home. It is well worth while, in the exceptional circumstances of to-day, to take the further risk of depleting that fund which you are going to mortgage to the extent of £15,000,000 by taking the extra £5,000,000 if necessary, in order to make this payment one of 20s.
Even in this Bill itself there is a suggestion, according to the actuarial figures, that possibly the contributions which had been levied will leave a balance over and above the payments to be made. In Clause 2 (3) there is provision made whereby, after a period of time, the Minister may, if he sees fit, reduce the contributions which are provided for by this Bill. That, therefore, assumes that the actuaries are in some doubt, as to whether they have not levied contributions which will be more than is absolutely necessary, and again I say the situation is so serious it is worth taking the risk that they have over-estimated, and you might not have to call on the whole of the £5,000,000 in reserve from the accumulated funds. I do not want to labour the point. The ground has been already covered as to the general desire that we should have adequate maintenance. But I would put this further point. This huge machinery you are establishing to administer the 18s. will be just as costly as administering the 20s. Therefore my proposal will not add to the cost of the scheme in any way. It is sound, therefore, from that point of view. The Minister suggested that what we are doing to-day is out of relation to anything that has been done in the past. I submit with all respect that, considering the depreciated value of money, the 18s. which he is offering to-day is no more than what was done in the original Act. Surely we have advanced in the collective consciousness of the nation beyond the stage of 1911, and we should turn down as being utterly inadequate to-day that which was equal to the standard required in 1911.
I hope the Minister will really seriously consider the point of whether he cannot meet that general expression of opinion which came from all sides of the House yesterday that 18s. is inadequate. It is 1210 not suggested that 20s. is adequate, but it is infinitely better than 18s. One reply the Minister gave yesterday was that the trade union funds would contribute to help the worker to eke his way out. But he knows that does not apply to more than half of the industrial workers of the country, and if he looks to one-half being able to help out by contributions, what is going to happen to the other half who have no funds to draw upon? As a matter of fact, owing to the amount and extent of unemployment which already exists and which, from what one knows of industry generally, is likely to be very much worse, these trade union funds will be soon depleted, and even the 50 per cent, will not have anything to supplement the State benefit from. It is impossible to think that a man can keep a wife and family on 18s. a week. It is not economical that he should be thrust upon charitable agencies and other sources in order to eke out his existence.
There should be one system, one payment, one method of administration if we are to get a better return both to the-individual and to the State. I suggest the Minister might very favourably consider this request, and even if the State-in the future has to make good the drawings it has made on the reserve fund, it would only be doing for Labour what it has already done for industry as a whole. During the War we had subsidised wheat, we had to subsidise railways, we had to subsidise the coal mines and the iron and steel industry. If that wore a legitimate charge for the purpose of winning the War, it is not unfair to ask that Labour, suffering from the aftermath of the War, should also have the same claim on the-State in order to supplement the small amount granted under this particular Bill. I therefore appeal to the Minister to consider favourably the moderate proposal which I have tabled for 20s.
I cannot understand why the Minister has not given the least indication that the Government are going to improve on the conditions of this Bill. I could understand them refusing that Amendment, because it does involve not only a change in policy but such a large amount as might very well stagger the Minister at the present time, though I believe that the Government might have accepted even that Amendment if it had been impressed as much with the necessity of expenditure at home as it has been im- 1211 pressed with the necessity abroad. The Minister said that he had not estimated the cost of the proposals. On the figures given yesterday it was stated that something like 10 per cent, of the employed persons are going to be out. Ten per cent, of 10,000,000 is 1,000,000. If you average the proposal out at £2 a week all round it would mean if accepted a probable liability of £100,000,000 during the next year for unemployment insurance. I can quite understand that £100,000,000 seems a staggering amount to spend for such a purpose; but these amounts are all relative. This House has passed with cheerful acquiescence very much larger sums spent for very much worse purposes. I cannot help having forcibly before my mind the fact that this particular Bill stands in the way of an Estimate which we shall have next week under the railway agreement. When they come before us what we shall be considering will not be a question of spending £100,000,000 for a million people to save them from destitution, but we shall be considering the question of satisfying a claim of from £100,000,000 to £200,000,000 by a very small section of the people of this country under these agreements.
That figure brings the thing more into perspective. The claim under the railway agreements is a claim for from £100,000,000 to £200,000,00 for 800,000 people. That claim will be urged with great force and eloquence by my hon. Friend opposite, and we shall have a very much fuller House than this and a great deal more interest in the matter, and we shall find that claim pressed—
I bow to your ruling, but as probably the effect of my illustration is felt, I am content to leave it. If the Minister had told us that he was going to accept the Amendment I think that we should have been so overcome by astonishment as to be incapable of any further action for the rest of the evening, but he not only refuses that but he has not given the least indication that he is going to improve by a single penny on the present proposition. I agree with 1212 my hon. Friend (Mr. Thomson) in pressing upon his notice the proposal of at least raising the 18s. to 20s. He cannot say that it will bankrupt the fund—
The fund is not necessarily bankrupt because the money is used for the purposes for which it was contributed. Why cannot he give the people back at least their own money? He is not asked to find a single penny from the Treasury. All he is asked to do is not to hang on to this money which is wanted now until the time comes when it will not be wanted, but to spend the money at the time when it will do the most good. Somebody has infused an amount of caution into the right hon. Gentleman which has not always characterised him. He would not occupy the exalted position which he now occupies if all the actions of his life had been characterised by the caution which is now shown. He has taken risks all along his career. I remember a risk which he took at a place called Leamington which I thought he faced very well. Let him face this risk of spending this extra £5,000,000. If he refuses to do this we shall be driven to the conviction that there is something more behind this than appears.
I am going to give you what appears to me to suggest grounds for the suspicion. We cannot feel that the Minister himself would refuse it.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The reason why I thought it not expedient was that it would wipe out the £5,000,000 which I hoped would be in the fund when the period 1922 has been reached.
All we were told yesterday was that the Minister does not want to wipe that out because he wants to have it at the end of the time. That does not appear to us a sufficient reason, or a reason which convinces even himself. We feel that there is something more behind it, that the money is being withheld because it is not desired to pun the benefit up, but it is desired to maintain a pressure upon these people which will drive them to accept lower wages.
The Minister must face that. We have at the present moment a movement for the reduction of wages all up and down the country showing itself in all different sorts of ways, and all kinds of means are being used to bring about the acceptance of lower rates of wages. What does appear to us in the adamantine obstinacy of the Minister is that the Government in this measure are lending themselves to that policy. It has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) that all the pressure on the Government to increase the provision has been put on so that they may understand the proportions of the question and try to make generous provision for it. The present request is to hand back to people their own money subscribed by them, and the Minister when he refuses that must face the suspicion that there is more behind it than ordinary caution, and that the Government is lending itself to a policy which has for its object a reduction of the general standard of the life and the well-being of the workers of the country. I acquit the Minister himself of any desire of the kind, but I cannot feel that he has got behind his own natural disposition the backing which the more bellicose dispositions of some other Members of the Cabinet obtain when they are presenting their favourite scheme. It is not yet too late for the Minister, before this Bill goes much further, to give some indication that this not unreasonable request is not going to be ignored.
§ Major NALL
It is a matter of great regret that the Minister of Labour has not answered the real point which arises on this Amendment. That is the question of differentiation. It is true he stated on the Second Reading that that could not be gone into owing to the urgency of the Bill; but the real urgency of this question in the country is that men with families are hardest hit, that while women who are drawing 12s. in many cases are so well off with 12s. that they will not take other employment, a man when he gets 18s. will be very little better off than he is to-day. That is the urgent question, and it is a matter of great regret that this all-important question of differentiation in these benefits has not been dealt with in this Bill. The sum total of the proposals in the Bill is 1214 simply to give another 3s. a week, which is practically nothing here and now, and so far as the vast majority of the beneficiaries are concerned. There are to-day vast numbers of women who have very little prospect of securing employment in various trades in which they have lately been engaged, it is difficult even as it is to get them to take up any other line. How much more difficult will it be to induce those who are already content to remain idle on 12s. to take work if they rind they can get 15s.? The absurdity of the difference of only 3s. between the man with a family and a single woman who is probably living with two or three other single women in one house is too great for words.
I enter my protest against a Department which is supposed to exist for the special purpose of looking after the workers of the country when this is the sum total of its labours on their behalf. This is only one of the reasons of the absolute futility of one of the most expensive of the new Departments which the Government continue in existence. I do not think that the Ministry of Labour realises to what extent the demand for women domestic work exists in the country. In scores of roads in the suburbs of Manchester, in thousands of houses up and down the country women are breaking down under the strain of household duties, because they cannot get any assistance. I am not speaking of wealthy women who can afford to pay wages sufficiently high to attract help. There are whole roads round Manchester, whole roads in almost every suburb of the great cities of this country where housewives are unable to get any domestic help of any sort, and are breaking down in health under the strain of looking after a family and doing the whole work of their own houses. That situation is bolstered up.
§ Major NALL
The same thing is true of artisans' wives who were accustomed formerly to get help and are unable to get it now. Women are breaking down. Within the last few weeks a medical man has told me that he has never had so many cases of break-down amongst women, and it is because they are unable to get help in their home. Here, without 1215 any proper discrimination as to the needs of the individual, we are deliberately raising to 15s. the benefit that will be paid to women. It is obvious that in many cases 15s. is inadequate, but it is equally obvious that the small sum paid to a man with a family is much more grossly inadequate. It is a matter for extreme regret that the Ministry of Labour, which exists to carry out such duties as this Bill will entail, is unable to give any real hope of assistance to those men who find themselves and their large families on the verge of starvation, while at the same time it is encouraging scores of women to remain idle. Although we cannot go into details, I hope that when an opportunity arises to deal with the Estimates of a Department which is showing such a singular inability to discharge its duties, we shall mark our disapproval of it.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I do not wish to give a silent vote on this Amendment. From what the Minister has said, it is quite clear that the Amendment would lead to the bankruptcy of the whole scheme, and that seems to be generally admitted; but I do not find in the speech of the Minister of Labour adequate reasons for not raising the benefit to the sum of 20s. All that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to make clear to us to-day is this—that if it was done the money chest would be empty. In speeches made from this side of the House I have not yet gathered that it is the view that that would be an unmitigated disaster. It would certainly be an acute difficulty, but acute difficulties have to be dealt with in a great crisis like the present. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the Government have not given sufficient consideration to the urgency of the matter and to the fact that an increase of benefit from 18s. to 20s. would be of the greatest assistance. The sum involved is round about £5,000,000. It is the kind of sum with which we are accustomed to deal very lightly in this House. During the past two years such amounts have been thrown about after very little discussion and for very slight reasons. I suggest that if that £5,000,000 had been brought within this Financial Resolution it would have been well worth while from all sorts of points of view. An increase of the benefit to 20s. is well worth the risk even to the extent of the absorption of the 1216 whole of the Reserve Fund, and I think it would receive a very large amount of support from the Committee as a whole. Another point relates to differentiation. I suppose it scarcely arises strictly within this Amendment. We all regret profoundly that some such step as that has not been taken. Administratively it would be comparatively easy. When I vote for these words to be left out I do not wish to be taken as voting for the insertion of 40s. Of course, that would wipe out the whole scheme as things stand at present. I vote as a protest against the position of the Government in limiting the benefit to 18s., and I do so on what I hold to be sound financial and great social reasons.
§ Mr. FRANCE
I am glad to have had so great an authority on procedure as the last speaker indicate how one can vote as a protest against no concessions on the part of the Government without committing oneself to the precise figures in this Amendment—figures which, I think the Committee agrees, would make the scheme impracticable. I differ from the last speaker in one respect. He did not think that the subject of differentiation was germane to this Amendment. I understood we were discussing an Amendment which contained the principle of differentiation. I certainly endorse very heartily the view that the figure of 18s. or even of 20s. is inadequate for a man who has the responsibility of a household and a family. I am quite prepared to take some risks with this fund, if I could be sure that the money would be spent in a way that would relieve the very serious strain being put upon those who can least afford to bear it. I wish it had been possible, without supporting these figures, to get the Government to agree to the principle contained in the Amendment, namely, that there should be a differentiation between the, head of a family and the man or woman who has not that responsibility. I would urge the Government to consider whether, even at this hour, they could not without much difficulty use the money which is available It is a time of great national emergency. It is sometimes the fashion for hon Members opposite, when anyone who sits elsewhere ventures an opinion, to sneer as if we had no right to express our views on such a matter. This suggestion of the right hon. Member for Platting is, as far as I know, the first suggestion which emphasises the point that the head of a household should 1217 have special consideration. The principle is already established. The married man has certain concessions in the matter of Income Tax and there are other ways in which those who have extra responsibility have to bear a smaller burden. It is quite true, as has been said, that you could not have a smaller contribution from the unmarried than from the married man, because that would be a temptation to the employer to choose the one rather than the other. In this matter I consider that the State has a special obligation, and that at a time of crisis like the present, the State, having the money in this fund, might increase the amount payable to the married man as the head of the family without interfering seriously with the normal machinery of benefit. It is not a difficult thing to ascertain whether a man's or a woman's claim as head of a household is satisfactory.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
The majority of the speakers yesterday and to-day have been sympathetic as far as the inadequacy of the benefit is concerned. The majority of speakers have agreed that the money which has been built up in reserve in the Unemployed Fund ought now to be used, because a national emergency has arisen. What business man is there in the House who would not see that a firm with which he was associated built up a reserve fund so that when the firm came upon dark days and bad trade, the reserve could be drawn upon to tide over those dark days? The £22,000,000 which have been built up in this fund wore looked upon as the reserve built up by the workers of this country in this contributory scheme of unemployment insurance, and that that reserve ought to be taken advantage of to-day to tide them over what is after all only an abnormal period. The Minister of Labour wants to keep £5,000,000 in the fund by the end of July, 1922, but he has given no reason why, except that he does not want the fund to be bankrupt. Might I put it to him that the exercise and use of those £5,000,000 during this abnormal period might save the lives of a number of people. An ex-soldier was picked up dead the other day, having committed suicide in Hampstead. He had searched for months to get work—he was not kept out of work because of the building trade unions, but was a motor driver unable to find employment. Would not the spending of the £5,000,000 which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to keep merely as a re- 1218 serve be the means of saving perhaps the lives of quite a number of people, as well as enabling children to have some nourishment which otherwise they might be denied? We are asking that the head of a family should have a certain sum allowed in proportion to the number of people dependent upon him, and we ask that single men and single women should also have certain sums out of the fund. An hon. and gallant Member below the gangway suggested that some single women were living riotous lives on 12s. a week.
§ Major NALL
I did not say they were living riotous lives, but that there are a number of women in the country who are quite content to remain idle so long as they can draw 12s. a week.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I should like the hon. and gallant Member to go on an exploration tour to find any women who can live to-day on 12s. a week. We ask that the principle of payment according to dependents should be adopted. That principle was conceded in the first donation given after the War. The Government, because an election was then pending—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I withdraw that, and say that possibly the Government gave this donation and, having decided to give it, the election came along—not as a consequent event, but as something which had been in their minds even before the Armistice. The Government, at any rate, conceded the principle there that the head of a family with dependents ought to have certain allowances. Now we are told that that cannot be done, but that a flat rate scale has to be paid to the men and to the women apart altogether from dependents. We think that the Government, having once conceded the principle, could very well allow it to come under this Bill. The Minister put a series of questions to the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes), and wanted to know where the money was to come from. That is a question that we have always been asked when we suggest any scheme involving expenditure, but no Cabinet Ministers ask this House or any section of the House where the money is to come from when they embark on great adventures, and spend £100,000,000 in trying to help adventurers in other parts of the world. It is only when it is a ques- 1219 tion of attending to the wealth producers of this country that we are asked where the money is to come from. We have heard it so often, and the same question was asked when we suggested Old Ago Pensions, and also when we suggested a wider scheme of education for the children of the worker.
In this case the workers have already built up a reserve of £22,000,000, and the money can come partly from there. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that it might come from schemes where industries would be asked to look after their own unemployment. Members on these benches do not view favourably any scheme where an industry must support the unemployed, because under such a scheme we should find that the general workers generally come off worse, because they drift from one industry to another as one becomes busy and another slack, until it is impossible for them to be insured within any given industry. We believe that unemployment is a social problem that must be supported by the community. We say that we are not averse from going into the question of apportioning the contribution, and if the right hon. Gentleman agrees to raise the scale of benefit, we are not averse from going into the question of fixing a higher rate of contribution. We suggest to him and to the Members of the House that he ought to consider in all seriousness the situation as it exists to-day. Does he consider 18s. a week for the head of a family, 15s. for a woman, and 20s. for an ex-soldier sufficient with prices as they stand to-day? How would any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in the House face the question of poverty, of feeding any dependents relying upon him to bring them food and sustenance, with only 18s. or 20s. to take into the household at the end of the week? It is a human question that has arisen out of the War, and it is a question that we must consider as an abnormal problem, just as we considered the other War problems, and have settled them in the light of their being War problems. I therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give more sympathetic consideration to our requests. He is one who has prided himself—and we on these benches and working men outside always look with pride to one who has risen from the ranks into a high position either in 1220 industry or in the State. His sympathy must be with the class from which he came, and we appeal to him to give more sympathetic consideration to our Amendment, and even if he cannot give the full amount we ask, at least to give a substantially higher sum than he proposes.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
I suppose as a matter of form that what we are now discussing is 40s., 25s., and 5s. I am against this for reasons I have already given, inside and outside this House. I may make a passing reference to something that was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes). He admitted the truth of the statement that I made the other day, that if a man is assured of a certain amount of income by the State, anything like approximating to maintenance, the incentive to work will at all events be lessened, and I think he even went further and said it would be eliminated. I am glad to have that admission. He went on further to say that he had a proposal to make to get over that difficulty, but I have not yet heard him make it. I think he has in his mind the association of trade unions with the State.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I said that, and also the necessity for tightening up the regulations to prevent malingering.
§ Mr. BARNES
I did not hear him. I beg my right hon. Friend to remember that if he asks the State to make a maintenance allowance, the need for trade unions, in the mind of the average man, will have gone, and therefore your association of the trade unions with the State will have gone with it. However, I do not want to go further into that matter. I have already put my case, both here and outside. I want now to say a word or two on the question of differentiation. It is a very important principle and not one to be lightly pitched into a Bill at the last moment. Let me say further that it not only upsets all actuarial calculations—because I suppose the Government have not the number of married as compared with single men, and before you could do any differentiation you would have to get that, information—but let me say further that it cuts into another principle, to which I know the trade unions attach some importance, and that is that benefits shall be proportionate to contributions. Up to now, so far as I know, 1221 no trade union has admitted the principle of differentiation. They regard a single man as entitled to exactly the same as a married man, because he pays the same contribution. That may be right or wrong, but while you are dealing with a Bill which, after all, does bring the trade unions into association with you in administration, you cannot lightly introduce a principle of that character.
§ Mr. BARNES
I can only say that on the whole the principle does apply in the rules of all trade unions so far as I know, but when strikes take place, all sorts of irregular and abnormal things also take place, and voluntary contributions are very often distributed according to a man's needs.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will not desire to mislead the House, but is it not a fact that by trade union regulations there are always allowances made for children?
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BARNES
No, there are not, so far as my knowledge is concerned. My hon. Friend may know better than I, or some cases that are not within my knowledge. I do not mean to say I have got all the knowledge about the trade unions. What I have said is that within my experience I do not know of rules of trade unions that make any differentiation as between the man who is married and the man who is single, provided they both pay the same contribution. I will make bold to say that, although my hon. Friend may bring forward exceptional cases, I think that statement will be borne out by the facts. I want to add my voice to the appeal made on the other side, and to wind up by making a suggestion. I wish to follow hon. Members who have made an appeal to my right hon. Friend to raise the amount to 20s. In the first place, as I said yesterday, I am not at all alarmed by the statement about the fund being depleted by July next year. That is 16 months ahead of us, and "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof," so far as I am concerned. After all, the Treasury is the power behind all these schemes, and if the Fund is depleted at any particular time, the Treasury must come in and make 1222 it good, or set up a scheme whereby you get further contributions from employers and employed. But there is another thing. The right hon. Gentleman bases his statement upon a certain estimate—it is not an actuarial calculation. He tells us that, provided there is an average of 9½ per cent, unemployed for the next 16 months, then the Fund will be depleted, except for the sum of £5,000,000. Have we ever had a time when there has been an average of 9½ per cent, unemployed for 16 months?
§ Mr. BARNES
Of course you have, but you are going through an abnormal period now—that is my point. It seems to me that, if you ever have a time when, for a period of 16 months, you have an average of 9½ per cent, unemployed, then you stand a very good chance of a revolution coming upon you. I had occasion to look over the figures some time ago in connection with a matter I was investigating. I went back to 1868, and, if my memory serves me aright, depressions occurred in 1869, 1879, 1885, and 1897 or 1898, and so on. If you go back over the whole of them with the exception of 1879, and then only in certain trades specially affected—for instance, in shipbuilding, for a few months, you had 17 per cent.—but with that exception, you had no period of depression when you had 9½ per cent, out of work for more than two or three months. Therefore, I say if you are going to base your calculation upon 9½ per cent. being out of work from now to July next year, it seems to me you are taking a figure which is far too high. I do not know whether you have taken it so high in order to frighten us, but, even if borne out by the facts, I still would not be frightened, and, therefore, I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give that 20s. It is not only the difference between 18s. and 20s. This 20s. has figured in the minds of many of us for years back as a sort of standard figure. It would give a great deal of satisfaction, more than is measured by the difference between 18s. and 20s. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to put this to the Treasury, to see if he cannot move their hearts, as I am sure he will open his own to give that 20s. Now I come to my practical suggestion. Cannot we make a deal upon this subject? The right hon. Member for Miles Platting has put forward a pro- 1223 position, which, with all deference to him, I do not think he can hope to secure as an Amendment to this Bill. He knows he cannot get this Bill amended in that way. Might I then make a suggestion that if the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench springs to the 20s., he might get the support of my hon. Friends opposite? I commend that to both sides.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
One might be led to suppose, from the arguments we have heard again to-night, that this financial problem is one that has been suddenly sprung upon the Committee, and that the problem itself is quite a new one. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and who has such intimate knowledge of the working of trades unions, by long experience and association, knows full well that for many years at British Trades Union Congresses, resolutions have been passed asking for the establishment of a Labour Ministry, in order that the Labour Ministry, in conjunction with the Board of Trade, should act as the barometer, the gauge glass, of the rise and fall of industry in volume, and in order to gauge as near as possible the periods of unemployment as they arise. Consequently, it is no new problem, and it ought not to be made the principal theme to-night that, if this Amendment were carried, the unemployed would suffer, because it could not be put into immediate operation, and because there was not a sufficiency of funds to meet that increased obligation. I want to know, therefore, what has the Labour Ministry been doing since its establishment in conjunction with the Board of Trade, that it has not been able to keep, as it were, its finger on the pulse of industry to gauge and prepare for these periods of industrial depression which are constantly occurring. If it had, it would have been prepared with a balance at its disposal, and sufficient to deal with something even more voluminous in the total amount than that contained in our Amendment. The Labour Minister, in his remarks this evening, gave us some huge figures showing what really the Government had been prepared to do, summed up in pounds sterling, for the purpose of relieving the distress, but the Labour Minister forgot that we have passed through a period that left behind it many, many thousands of men who 1224 had been in the service of the nation in its more physical sense, and the nation's obligation, surely, was to take on the financial burden of making provision for those ex-service men. Instead of doing that, they have shelved their responsibility by placing all ex-service men now unemployed upon the accumulated funds of the previous civilian contributors, and truly it may be said that those ex-service men, who under the 1911 Act, helped towards the building up of that fund; but the State, instead of* relieving the fund by making some direct payment to its ex-service men of £l, 30s., or 40s.— we would prefer, of course, that the ex-service men should be treated exactly on the same lines as this proposal in our Amendment, as against the £l proposed by the Government in this Bill—but, instead of putting thorn on the fund, you could have had that reserve purely to meet that obligation to the civilians, and the State retained its full obligation so far as the ex-service men were concerned.
Much was said by one hon. Member as to the question of differentiation. The Amendment really does provide a differentiation. This is not any attempt at sentiment, pure and simple, but a business proposition. The family man point of view has never been properly taken into consideration by this House or by the Government; neither have they taken into full consideration the position of the widow who has a family to maintain. I know it is said, "But look what we have done. It was originally 7s. in 1911, and we have come along now to 18s." You have made no advance at all. As a matter of fact, the 18s. now proposed will be worse than the 7s. in 1911, so that we have gone backwards. At the time that Act was passed, I know it was suggested that it was simply a first timid attempt at instituting something which it was hoped would become more permanent and adequate as time wont on. Instead of becoming more adequate, it become more inadequate. It is adding injury to injury. Think of 18s. going to a household where there are six below the age, say, of 14, or where there are possibly seven children below the age of 16, which is first qualifying age for participation in an unemployment donation. Apart from rent, if you were 1225 to take the lowest possible standard, it is impossible to maintain a person under the age of 16, even with five or six in the household, at anything less than from 12s. to 15s., with food and clothing alone. It is said, "Where is the money to come from?" We do not pretend, even if this Amendment were carried, and in full operation, it would make full and adequate provision for all the requirements of the recipients. We say it will only represent less than two-thirds, and in some cases less than a quarter, of what the income would be were those individuals in their ordinary full occupation, even in the lowest-paid classes of employment in the country.
The way it ought to be put is: What is the value of a life to the nation? The Labour Minister says, "Oh, but we do not put our proposals on such a high basis as that; what we want to do is to keep the men and women, the human unit of the nation, at least in such a state that they will be able, when the time arrives, rapidly to recover from any little depreciation that may have set in now: we want to make provision so that that depreciation shall not be so vital as permanently to undermine the constitution of these various individuals." But I put it to hon. Members, that your 18s. per week for the head of a family is not going to do that. You are going permanently to undermine and unwittingly to help in the decay of the nation, because, remember, if these periods last for any length of time, whilst under other circumstances I am an optimist, I am sorry sometimes to feel very dull and heavy—as everyone must who has any human feeling or sentiment about him—when thinking of these matters. In this connection we must remember that many at present receiving the unemployment donation are men and women who were not in receipt of the highest wages during the industrial boom of the last few years. Most of them are huge aggregations of the lowest-skilled and semi-skilled type of worker whose wages would be anything from, say, £3 6s. to £4 per week, and who never had an opportunity to make any provision at all for the future. You have this fact also to face, that during the war period food substitutes were in being, and whilst the purchasing power was greater than at the present moment, yet the food was not purchasable, and now that foods is more 1226 plentiful and purchasable there are no wages, and it is difficult, therefore, to retain sound health and physique.
I do put it that if we value the existence of this nation at its truest and highest level we will, I think, consider that 18s. is not sufficient for the purposes indicated, and we surely cannot say by the passing of this Bill, without amendment, you provide a sufficient amount to maintain a man and his family from the decay and depreciation to which I have referred. It will certainly lead to drifting on and on so that when the time does come for the man who has got work to put forth physical energy again his physique will have been undermined and the nation be the loser thereby. I speak as one with a long personal experience. I am certainly one of those who has had many weeks' unemployment, though I do not desire to boast of the fact. Those of us who know—and there are some—appreciate fully the difficulty that under these circumstances the less fortunate of our citizens must be under. I would urge that something more should be done than the Government proposals indicate. Do not let us say we cannot find the money. Here is a question of the life of the nation. In 1914 there was no suggestion that we could not find the money.
I notice that in the Press it is stated that there is £190,000,000 of Excess Profits Duty this year. As I said yesterday the Excess Profits Duty comes from industry. It represents the joint, effort of those engaged in industry, those who manage, control it and otherwise work it. Even if it does not total more, the industrial workers who at the moment are unemployed have just as much right to call upon that accumulation of £190,000,000 that is the result of joint effort as they have called upon the joint accumulation of the £22,000,000, which is also the result of joint efforts. One word about the single woman who, it is said, will not work because of the unemployment benefit of 12s. That is not my experience. The city, one of whose constituencies I have the honour to represent, in its industries employs mainly woman labour. My experience there is that our womenfolk, keeping up as they endeavour to do, and maintaining that respectability that makes us all proud of them, desire to work properly. To suggest that they would never bother about work or wages if they get the 12s. per week is wrong.
1227 I know you can always keep throwing at their heads the suggestion that they may become domestic servants, but domestic service under conditions which restrict their freedom and generally are not always what they should be is not what one would care for our daughters. I have not, however, known, where wages have been at all commensurate with the duties they are called upon to perform, where work has been refused by those who have had a few years' experience of domestic service. Certainly, I do know this, it must be a struggle for any single person, male or female, to be able to get along on 18s. and 15s. respectably. I should not care, even under these circumstances, to take a boarder in and give board and residence at anything like the amount that would be the income from the unemployed donation. I do feel, whether this Committee agrees with me or not, or does or does not agree with our Amendment, that it is still an amount not representing the full measure necessary to maintain in bodily health the recipients of it. I, therefore, urge that, as every hon. Member seems to feel that there ought to be some differentiation in the rate, and that the head of the house ought to have some higher sum than the single individual, that the last word has not been said upon the matter. I trust the Minister of Labour will see to what extent it is possible to meet the expressed wishes and desire of a majority of this House, and so greatly please them, but also the better please us on this side of the House.
Major C. LOWTHER
As matters stand now if we go into the Lobby we shall vote upon the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting. When he moved the Amendment he did so in terms, if I may say so with great deference, of great fairness, and he put before the Committee very carefully the reasons which prompted him to put forward the Amendment. He also, with equal fairness, promised to state, as he put it, the other side of the question. He was sincere in his desire to do so, but I would make this one incursion into the Debate to say that he did not do so quite so fairly. I take his figure—and I have no doubt it is perfectly correct—that 40s. to-day is only equivalent to 15s. in the pre-War time. He said what is no doubt 1228 perfectly correct that even 40s. to-day is a miserable pittance for a working man, and that the working man has suffered a great deal from the aftermath of the War. We hear a good deal about the suffering of the working man from the aftermath of the War. May I, however, urge this point; that there are other classes which also have suffered, and are suffering, from the aftermath of the War. Where 40s. to the working man represents 15s. pre-War value it represents to everyone else exactly the same. I think the right hon. Gentleman admits that, and also that if this Amendment were to be carried the great burden would fall upon the State. After all, the State is the taxpayer, and the taxpayer has got to meet this burden. That 40s. only now represents really 15s. is not really the guiding factor in the whole thing. If we consulted the wishes of all here to do all we can to ameliorate the awful distress of unemployment, we would most freely do all we could, but all of us, whether workers or whatever class to which we may belong, are up against this solid fact, that as the right hon. Gentleman so clearly said, 40s. nowadays is worth 15s. in pre-War times.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The House, I am sure, listened to the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Hayday) with great interest, but I would remind him that this is the kind of subject on which it is the easiest thing in the world to make sympathetic speeches. It is a class of case on which one—and certainly I could—make sympathetic and pathetic speeches. I think, however, the great thing we want to do is to try and do something practicable. May I also say that we ought not to raise false hopes amongst the people, or lead them to imagine that the purse of the State is bottomless. I speak sincerely when I say that I would be very glad if the whole community were even as well off as I am—and that perhaps is not saying much— and whatever the class, whether mental or bodily strength is necessary to keep on, there is nothing more pathetic than that the man who wishes work cannot get it. I certainly, if I saw the possibility of the Amendment working out, would support it unhesitatingly. But I know perfectly well—and I am sure, if I may say so with great respect, my right hon. Friend knows perfectly well too—that if this Amendment were carried in its present form the Bill 1229 would be lost—at all events, it would be delayed. I am thinking of a great many people in my own constituency, and I want them to get the best terms that they can, and as quickly; and this latter is a matter of vital importance.
Having listened to a great deal of this Debate I must say I was surprised at the proposal made by my hon. Friend who sits opposite to me. He suggests that the balance from the unemployed insurance in hand would enable another 2s. to be paid. That is, the 18s. to be made 20s. For my own part I would take the risk about the reserve of which my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench speaks. In my view, the 2s. added to an allowance of 18s. a week makes a very great difference in a small household. If my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Clynes) would amend his Amendment by putting down 20s., I would vote for it, because you are not making an immediate addition to the rates in this way, but you are really showing what ought to be demonstrated, and that shows how successful you can make this insurance system when you have a reserve of this kind that you can call upon. I feel that if I voted for this Amendment in the end we should get nothing extra, and I ask my right hon. Friend to come down to practical politics at the moment, and let us get all we can. If we get the initial 2s. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will have done a good afternoon's work. I do not believe the State or the Insurance Fund will he running any appreciable risk in making this grant. I have been long enough in this House to know that you very often lose something by opening your mouth too widely, and I am not prepared to vote for this Amendment.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
I want to associate myself with those who have been advocating differentiation. I think it is lamentable that there should have been added a flat rate of 3s. to the girl who may be living at home and the man who has to support a family of perhaps five or six children, and that shows a great lack of discrimination. I am strongly of opinion that the head of the family should receive more than this 18s., and I would add to it even at the expense of the girl rather than they should not have it at all at the head of the family. I think there is no reason for that, and I believe the £5,000,000 which is intended to hold up as a reserve will provide an 1230 ample margin to give to the head of the family the additional 2s. which has been advocated by so many hon. Members, without perhaps deducting anything else.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I listened very carefully to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dun-cairn (Sir E. Carson), more particularly when he made that reference of sympathy and practicality. As for the 20s. which has been mentioned, I am afraid that is not practical when we take a long view. What is the position? I know many of those with whom I have been in contact with for many years have been walking the streets for many months. In one case I know of there is a man who has six children, and he is compelled, with the little employment he gets, to have assistance from the Board of Guardians. If this man has an allowance of 20s., where does the advantage come in if the man has to go to the Board of Guardians to get another 15s.? Would it not be better for the State in the first place to grant the 40s. as proposed by this Amendment? I am speaking from the point of view of the children. The Ministry of Health has a department which is spending thousands of pounds every year upon medical research. This House does not in the least degree minimise the necessity for medical research, and why? Because it is in the interests of the health of the community. As a consequence, if that is essential, how much more essential is it that when that state of health has been secured we should take drastic action to defend that health in order to have an Al population.
We think the figures mentioned by the Minister of Labour are totally insufficient to meet the situation. We are also of opinion that the reserves should be drawn upon. With regard to the economies at the expense of the standard of life of the people, we trust that the Minister, who has always been fairly sympathetic, will see his way clear to grant the terms of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Barnes) said this would upset the whole basis of the actuarial valuation. Those valuations could easily be gone into within the next month, and within a month this House would have an opportunity of discussing the question in the light of the new actuarial valuations according to the amount we are prepared to grant to-day.
1231 I think that is somewhat a lame excuse to put up against the granting of this Amendment. Whilst I have always listened with sincerity to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals, I only desire to say to him that there are many trade unions that always make allowance for the children of these men who are out of work, and if it can be done in that case it can be easily done by the State in a case of this description. In the interests of the children, and those who cannot help themselves, I appeal to the House to grant all the assistance they can to maintain the strength of our nation and to build up a future generation that will be a credit to the statesmen of the age.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I was hoping that some Minister would reply to the observations of my hon. Friend. When the right hon. Gentleman was replying to the Mover of this Amendment I interrupted and asked how long would it be before the fund was exhausted if this proposition were accepted. I think the reply was that that matter had not been gone into in detail. The thing is very-simple, because the Government must know the number of men and women out of employment to-day, and the amount which is being paid on the scale of 12s. and 15s per week. They must have calculated how much the extra cost will he to pay 18s. a week, and surely they are in a position to find out the extra amount of money it will cost. They know how much money they have at their command now, and there is the amount they will receive from the 11,000,000 of men and women who are insured, and they ought to be in a position to tell us what the position would be if this Amendment were accepted. Those are simple propositions which ought to be answered.
I am not very much concerned as to whether the fund will last long or short, because I happen to belong to one of the collective schools of Socialism, and. when the State insurance was introduced, I advocated a non-contributory scheme. I suggest that this extra 3s. ought to be paid by the State for the men and the women, and the extra contribution they are asking from the employer, the worker and the State at the beginning of July ought to pay more than the 3s. It is a well-known fact; that the members of the organisation which I represent are pay- 1232 ing 2d. a week for 6s. We have 25,000 on our funds, and by a careful calculation made this afternoon, as one of the chief officials, I had to present it to them as to whether we were gaining or losing, and the result was that although WP asked for an extra 2d. as a contribution to enable us to pay 6s. to those who pay full contributions, we are in a position to pay this 6s. for 2d., whilst here the Government are asking an extra contribution from the men, women and employers and the State, I think it is 3¾d. for an extra 3s. Everybody knows that if the amount proposed were accepted, or even a lesser amount, you could pay out 20s. just as easily as 10s. You can pay 40s. just as easily as you can pay 50s., because it costs no more for administration. You can put down a figure of 40 just as easily as 18 from an administrative point of view. The Government, cannot say that it would cost anything more in that direction.
We are told that if we increase this extra benefit it is going to absorb the £15,000,000. I cannot see how it is going to cost that amount. I shall not be satisfied until I hear someone from the Treasury Bench tell us exactly what this extra 3s. is going to cost as well and the approximate amount that is coming in from the contribution. That is a simple proposition, and those questions ought to be answered before we accept the statement made that this proposal win cost another £15,000,000, keeping £5,000,000 in reserve. What do you want to keep that amount in reserve for? Why not pay it out, because it has been paid in? You have no right to keep that balance, and if you did your duty you ought to pay the expense of all the ex-soldiers out of the Exchequer. Many of them have not contributed to the fund at all. I do not say that we ought to cut the ex-soldier out, but during the time I have been in this House this Session everybody has been so sympathetic about the ex-soldier that in my humble judgment the State ought to bear that obligation and take that number from the Unemployment Fund, and if you did that then you could pay even more than 18s. I know it is quite hopeless, and we might as well talk to a brick wall. You have all made up your minds—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The Division Lobby will tell us that. The Government have even not agreed to the suggestion made 1233 from all quarters of the House that the benefit should be increased from 18s. to 20s.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
We will accept anything we can get. I think we are entitled to know before the Debate is closed whether the Government are prepared to accept the proposition from all quarters to raise the 18s. to 20s. So far they have declined to give any reply to that. They are sticking hard and fast to the 18s., and in so doing, they are taking up an impossible position. You cannot expect us to compromise in any shape or form while they indicate they are not prepared to offer more than 18s.
§ Mr. ALFRED LAW
It is a matter for congratulation there is such a small disparity between the amount proposed by the right hon. Gentleman and that on which many of us would like to see a compromise. We on this side are deeply sympathetic with the unemployed, and especially with the ex-soldiers. During the course of the Debate it has been suggested there is a special obligation on the nation to make provision for ex-soldiers, and I cannot help thinking it is a national obligation, as these men fought for their country. I also agree that temporary provision should be made for those who are unfortunately placed in a position of unemployment, which we all trust will only be temporary. I hope some compromise will be found. To my mind 18s. does not appear to be sufficient. I should certainly like to see it increased by 2s., if not more. I should also like to urge that it is the duty of the employers in each particular industry to meet the difficulty by some voluntary contribution. I support the suggestion of the right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes) that the benefit should be fixed at 20s., and if hon. Members opposite will agree to that compromise, I shall be happy to vote with them.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree to raise the sum to 20s. In doing so, I do not believe he will be running the slightest risk, because the wave of depression in trade is, I feel sure, only temporary. I have never been a pessimist. Pessimism is no good to anybody. It 1234 never won a war, and it never carried us through bad times. So far as Lancashire is concerned, I am hopeful that within three months we shall see trade begin to move, and in six months we shall be going at full time. Therefore, I do not believe the Labour Ministry will run the slightest danger in increasing the benefit to 20s. The right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) told us it was easy to make pathetic speeches on questions like this. I agree, but we must face facts. I have had a good deal to do with the unemployed question, and I know there are families who are actually starving. Can we afford to let these men starve?
I confess I feel that the benefit ought to be graded. I do not see why it should not be. The Labour Minister tells us that they have no figures to show what the result would be. But what are they in office for? Is it merely to run Labour Exchanges which have not proved of the slightest use to either employer or employed, but which have cost the country vast sums of money to very little effect? Compare the two cases. You pay 18s. a week to a single man. You pay the same sum to a man with a wife and four children. Take 6s. off for rent, and it leaves 12s. for food and clothes. How can a family of five or six people live on such a sum? Can anyone live on 2s. a week? The whole thing is absurd; it means starvation pure and simple. Personally, I would have had the greatest pleasure in voting for the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes). But what is the good of voting for it when one feels confident in his own mind that the money cannot be found? The Minister of Labour told us that employers and employed ought to make an arrangement between themselves for keeping their unemployed. I agree but the trade unions have been the obstacle in the way of that. In my own trade an attempt was made to introduce it within the last three years, but the trade union prevented it, and the suggestion was opposed by the hon. Member for one of the Glasgow Divisions, whose practice it is to introduce class hatred into these questions. I would ask the Minister of Labour this question. While we are getting such a scheme into operation, what are these men to do? We cannot allow them to starve. I think the right hon. Gentleman under any 1235 circumstances should increase the benefit from 18s. to 20s., and if he does not agree to do that I am afraid it will put some of us in the awkward position of not being able to support the Government. Therefore I trust he will accede to a request which has come from all quarters of the House.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
Like the last speaker, I am not a pessimist; but I fancy the Ministry of Labour are pessimists. Personally, I am quite satisfied in my own mind that the contribution asked for from the employer and employed, plus the contribution of the State, will enable the Ministry to pay a benefit of at least 25s. to married men and 20s. to single men. The actuarial statements in connection with health and unemployed insurance in the past have always under-estimated income and overestimated expenditure, and I suggest that if the actuary has based his calculations on 9 or 10 per cent, of unemployed he is a long way out, and if instead of 10 per cent, he calculated only on 7 per cent, there would be a far larger income and much less expenditure than he anticipates. I hope, therefore, before the Division is taken, the Government will make some declaration with regard to what it proposes to do. One of the hon. Members just now spoke of 12s. per week as being too much for an unemployed woman. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I was at a conference in Manchester 18 days ago, which was waited upon by a deputation of unemployed women, and one young woman said, "I am 22 years of age, my 12s. per week unemployed benefit ceases this week. I have led a decent and respectable life up till now. When my benefit ceases what am I to do? I may for a few weeks pawn my clothes and the little bit of jewellery I have, but when all that is exhausted what am I to do?" There we have the moral side of the question which has been ignored altogether. I say that the 12s. plus the 3s. is only just sufficient to keep women and particularly young ones from falling into temptation, and I appeal to the Government to at any rate increase the benefit to 20s. for men and 18s. for women. I believe the fund will stand it. I do not think we are going to have a large num- 1236 ber of unemployed persons for a very long period. I believe that by a better organisation of labour—and labour is badly organised in the workshop at the present time—a great improvement may be effected. The heads of industries might well devote their efforts to securing more work and reducing cost of production. Remembering what-has been said by the hon. Member for West Ham with regard to what it costs trade unions to pay a certain benefit, I suggest that the proposals of the Government will not bear comparison with the work of the trade unions. I do not know where the money goes in the Government's case, unless it goes in the payment of administrative officials. I hope the Government will compromise, and either now or before the Report stage agree to increase the benefit. They are acting too cautiously in this matter, and I agree with those who declare that grave discontent will arise unless the accumulated unemployment funds are made use of and people brought into a better state of mind than they are at the present time. Therefore I trust the Government have not said their last word in connection with this matter.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Questions have formed a feature of several of the speeches which have been made, but they have not been addressed so much to me as to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I would like to ask a question of the Chair, and also to address one to my right hon. Friend. Of course, we should have much preferred to have recorded our support of this. Amendment by voting for it in the Lobby, but I think I am voicing the feeling of those for whom I speak on this side of the Committee when I say that we do not desire merely the satisfaction of supporting our Amendment in the Lobby if that means preventing the Committee from increasing the figure from 18 to 20 shillings. I want to ask you, Sir, whether, if a Division were taken on the Amendment now before the Committee, that would preclude a discussion and a vote upon other Amendments proposing to raise the figure to 20s. I would also like to ask my right hon. Friend (Dr. Macnamara) to reply to the definite questions put to him as to whether he can see his way to raise the amount to 20 shillings.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In reply to the question put to me it is quite clear that if 1237 the present Amendment is carried to a Division the Committee will decide whether or not 18s. is to stand part, and having decided that they cannot go back upon it. The question I shall have to put from the Chair, as I am obliged to do, is that the one word ("eighteen") proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause. The decision, therefore, would conclude that matter. A subsequent proposal could only be brought effectively before the Committee if the present Amendment were withdrawn.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Perhaps I may now answer the question put to me much earlier by the right hon. Member for the Gorbals Division. I quite realise that although technically we are discussing the Labour party's proposal of 40s. for the head of a family, and the other provision made in the Amendment, we are, in effect, dealing with a very widespread proposal that the 18s. should be raised to 20s. I am bound to say that I do not think that my right hon. and hon. Friends quite realise how much this Bill does. First of all, it raises the existing benefit by 3s., from 15s. to 18s., but it does a great deal more than that. It takes an emergency period of 16 weeks after the coming into operation of the Act down to the end of October, and another 16 weeks without further contribution, making 32 weeks to the end of June, 1922. It says to the civilian, "If you can show 10 weeks' employment during the year 1920, if you are an insured person, in an insured trade, then you will be eligible for that." For a fit ex-service man, the period is 10 weeks during the whole of 1920, and I am proposing to amend the Bill to take care that there shall be no possibility of hardship, even then in a case where a young fellow, who was not in industry before he joined the colours, cannot possibly have 10 weeks' employment to his credit. I propose to give discretion to the local employment committee to waive this rule if need be. The Bill does more than this. It raises the 15s. to 18s. without increasing the contribution until 4th July, 1921.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Forgive me. He receives a benefit of 18s. in anticipation, from the passing of the Act, while the raising of the contribution is postponed 1238 to the beginning of the new insurance year, 4th July, 1921. The Bill also substitutes a permanent 26 weeks' benefit, possible in one year, against the permanent 15 weeks at the present time. I do not complain that the Debate has ranged round the question of 18s. and 20s., but I ought to point out the other considerations involved, and they are very substantial. Coming to the immediate question, there is in the Unemployment Fund over £20,000,000, and we are quite entitled to deal with that, because it was the high state of employment during the War, and the £62,000,000 out-of-work donation paid since the close of hostilities to persons, many of whom would otherwise have come on the Fund for benefit, which have kept that Fund at £20,000,000. We say that if we raise the amount to 18s., with this special emergency period of 32 weeks, with the postponed contributions to the 4th July, 1921, and to the permanent 26 weeks in the year instead of 15, we shall bring the Fund down to £4,000,000 or £5;000,000; and we cannot take it below that.
To-day the percentage of unemployment amongst insured persons is 13, and the trade union percentage of unemployment is 7. There are 13 per cent, insured persons unemployed, casting out 1,750,000 persons who may be presumed to come under special schemes. The basis on which I have gone has been to estimate that during the whole of the period up to the end of June, 1922, there may be an average of 9½ per cent, insured persons unemployed, still casting out the 1,750,000 people who come in under the special schemes. As I said yesterday, we may hope to Heaven that unemployment will not be 9½ per cent, on the average, but I think I have made a perfectly safe calculation. On the basis of 9½ per cent., the benefits proposed in this Bill could be given, and about £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 left in the Fund. My hon. Friends say to me: "Take your courage in both hands, and raise the amount to 20s." This, curiously enough, would have the effect of practically wiping out the Fund. Let the Committee realise what it is doing. If unemployment is heavier than the average of 9½ per cent, or 10 per cent.—I must be frank with the Committee—and the amount is raised1 to 20s., we shall close the insurance year 1921–22—at the end of June, 1922—and 1239 start the new one with a deficiency in the Fund. We have certain obligations to people who have paid into the Insurance Fund.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think my hon. Friend rather complained that he has not had paid back quite as readily as he ought to have had sums of money which are due to him. The position is that if the percentage of unemployment is, on the average, more than 9½, there will be a deficiency, and in any case, apart from unemployment altogether, there is an outstanding liability of £3,000,000, a capital charge—that is the valuation liability of the charge—involved in repaying to insured persons, who reach 60 years of age, the excess of their own contribution over benefits received, at compound interest. That is a liability which has in any case to be faced. Now the Committee fully understands where we are when it is proposed that we should take the risk. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer reminded me, I have been dealing with the whole intervening period which is allowed here, up to the time when we are left with the £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 balance on the basis of the 18s. benefit. If at that time, however, when we are starting the new year, 1922–23, unemployment is above 5 per cent, there will be a week to week liability beyond the income you will be receiving at that moment. If there is a higher percentage of unemployment than 9½ at that period, then there will be a deficiency which will have to be met. I hope no one will turn round here then, and tell me that I ought to be jumped on by the Anti-Waste party. Let us be quite clear about that. I have not heard a whisper of that sort of thing during this Debate.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
The House would readily vote to my right hon. Friend any deficiency that might arise.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is a most reassuring thing to hear. That is the position, but, after all, in consideration of the plea made in all quarters, beginning with the hon. Member for Newcastle last night, and continued to-day, 1240 I am bound to say that if an opportunity offers, by the withdrawal of this Amendment, to take a vote on the question of 20s. as against 18s., I shall be very glad to move such an Amendment myself, or to get some other hon. Gentleman to move it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
In view of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and of your own announcement from the Chair, Mr. Whitley, as to the position in which we shall be placed, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would suggest that as the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Trevelyan Thomson) has this particular Amendment on the Paper, he should be allowed to move it.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I beg to move to leave out the word "eighteen," and to insert instead thereof the word "twenty."
I formally move the Amendment which, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, meets the general view of all sections of the Committee. I am glad his well-known sympathies have come out on top, and that he is prepared to take the risk which the whole of the Committee has asked him to take. There is this satisfaction in feeling that this settlement will be an agreed one, showing the broad sympathy of all sections of the Committee.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
Before the Question is put, I should like to protest against the increase of this allowance. I would go to any length to give an adequate allowance to those people who are suffering at the present time, but I am satisfied that this will only aggravate the great disease you are seeking to cure. We are concerned at the present time in getting the wheels of industry going. You speak of solving the problem and reducing unemployment by improving industrial organisation, but what is the use of improving industrial organisation if you have nothing for that industrial organisation to work on? How are you going to get work into your workshops if you increase the tendency to unemployment by attracting on to the streets the younger element especially, who are, many of them, perfectly satisfied with 18s. a week. I desire to enter a vigorous protest, in the interests of the working men 1241 of this country, whom I know well and thoroughly understand, against increasing this allowance, and so keeping men out of work and constantly forcing them on to unemployment benefit. Having made that protest, I will leave the matter until a more appropriate occasion when I can fully explain my views.
Major C. LOWTHER
The right hon. Gentleman said quite fairly that none of those whom he called the "anti-waste party" had raised their voice against his proposals. My voice was raised on a previous occasion to show that, if any burden were cast upon the State, it would fall upon the taxpayer, and the same observation applies now. The value of money has not increased because this dole has been increased, and if there is a burden to be borne, be it weekly or annually, or whatever it may be, it will fall on the taxpayer. The taxpayer, as it is, has a sufficiently heavy burden to bear, and the increase which the Government proposed in their original Bill was the utmost that they were entitled to propose. I therefore desire to associate myself with the hon. Member who has just eat down.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I desire also to support the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. G. Balfour). Those who have advocated this increase have really done a very bad service to the working men, and it is a striking commentary upon the de sire for economy which has been spoken of in various quarters. Whenever there is anything which will increase expenditure but which may be popular, I am sorry to say that a very considerable number of Members of the House of Commons throw aside their desire for economy in order to be on the popular side. Let us consider what the real position is. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour says that he has budgeted for 9½ per cent, of men out of employment. One or two hon. Gentlemen opposite said that this was an abnormal situation, but I am sorry to say that I do not think it is an abnormal situation. I think it is going to be worse, and that the increase of these doles will only lead to people saying that they will not take any less wages, which is the only thing that will bring this country back to its proper prosperity. Do not let us make any mistake. The only way is to increase production, and the only way to increase 1242 production is to ensure that the cost of producing an article is such that the article when produced can be sold. The only result of preventing the reduction of wages, as it will be prevented if this increase is given, will be to prevent the increase of production, and if there is no increase in production there will not be any wages to pay at all. There will be no Fund. I have had experience of these funds. The Railway Superannuation Fund has been bankrupt for a long time because people have always gone on the assumption that the worst was not going to take place, and that something would come forward which would put it right. As surely as I am standing here, the right hon. Gentleman's prognostication of 9½ per cent, of unemployment over the whole period will be wrong, and the result will be that the Fund will be bankrupt. Moreover, as in Ireland and as in India, the increasing of the allowance from 18s. to 20s. will not be received with gratitude, but will be used as a jumping ground for further increases. We have only to look at the first Amendment, which asked, not for 20s., but 40s. The moment that the right hon. Gentleman has shown, as he has done, his squeezability, he will be further squeezed, with the result that unemployment will be encouraged and the fund will become bankrupt. As it was said that this proposal meets with the approval of all Members of the House, I congratulate my hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) on having taken the unpopular view, in which I feel bound to support him.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
It seems to me extraordinary that the right hon. Baronet should work himself into such a high state of excitement on this question. The difference between the right hon. Baronet and myself is that he gets hysterically excited and indignant on the side of bad policies, white I get excited on the side of good policies. I would venture to point out to him that, although he may now be regarded as a chartered Parliamentary economist, it is strange that' his economic mentality is always attracted upon the side of saving money when social reforms are to be carried out. There will be many opportunities for the right hon. Baronet to exercise his economic conscience on the Estimates that are coming up for consideration. He will have many opportunities of moving reductions. He 1243 will find, if he thoroughly analyses and examines, as, no doubt, he will, the Estimates presented, many chances for the indulgence of his passionate desire for the reduction of public charges. I trust that he will show next week, when large sums of money will be asked for by the Government, especially in connection with Ireland, some of that intensity which he has just displayed. I rarely congratulate the Government in this House, but I want to congratulate the Minister now, because I think he has done the right thing in acceding to the request made from the Labour benches.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am very glad. It is highly to the credit of the House that there is in all quarters the desire to make more adequate—I think 18s. was absolutely inadequate—the concession which has been made, or rather, I would say, the attempt to relieve in some small degree the unemployment which exists in these islands, and for which the people are neither directly nor indirectly responsible. As I mentioned last night, at the time when the previous Unemployment Insurance Bill was proposed, and the present leader of the Labour party suggested that the allowance should be increased from 15s. to £l a week, I strongly supported him. I thought that it should have been £l then, and I am glad that it will be so now. Therefore, I join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Government on their good sense in accepting the suggestion made, which has been supported, as the right hon. Gentleman says, in all parts of the House. I understand that I should not now be in order in raising a point that is of vital interest to those whom I represent, namely, the vast body of men, mostly labourers, who, through no fault of their own, were unemployed during the period of the moulders' strike in Belfast. I desired mainly to ask for information from the right hon. Gentleman, and perhaps I can do so on a subsequent occasion.
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I suggest to the Committee that, as we have taken up a very long time on the first Amendment, the Committee might now be ready to come to a decision?
§ Amendment agreed to.1244
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, to leave out the words "and fifteen shillings respectively."
This, as hon. Members will observe, would equalise the benefit to men and to women. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman's nod means that he is going to accept it?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will give very briefly the reasons why I hope the Committee will support the Amendment. An unemployed woman needs food and shelter as much as an unemployed man, and there is another reason which I will only mention, namely, that the woman is open to temptations to which the man is not. The unemployed women are in many cases the younger women, the mothers of the future, and we have every right to look after them as much as we do the unemployed men. If there is anything in the equality of sexes, I think the hon. Members who agree with equality of treatment for the sexes should support me in this Amendment. I do not want to enter at length into the many arguments that could be put forward in its favour, but I would make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give it his sympathetic consideration. In many cases the condition of the unemployed woman is very pitiable. She cannot shift from one employment to another so easily as a man can, and in many cases her health goes more quickly than a man's. Hon. Members who think that unemployed women have all got homes to go to make a very great mistake; the majority of these women who are unemployed to-day are dependent solely on their own earnings. They are the weaker vessels in the body politic, and I think it is scandalous that their allowance should be loft at 15s. We have just raised the man's allowance to 20s. What is the position of the woman? Is her allowance to remain at 15s., or is she to get an extra 2s.? If the right hon. Gentleman proposes, in a sub sequent Amendment, to raise the woman's allowance to 17s.—
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Then there is all the more reason why he should accept my Amendment, making the benefits equal. You have just given the man an extra 2s., making his allow- 1245 ance 20s., and the woman's allowance is left at 15s. The inequality, therefore, is all the grosser and more striking, and I think the hon. Members who are never tired of talking about respect for the working women of this country, and the part that they played in the perilous times we have just gone through, might support me in this Amendment, which I intend to press.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I desire to support this Amendment. I have a similar Amendment on the Paper myself, but this covers the round covered by my Amendment. This question of insurance is not against personal or individual risk; the risk is a trade matter, and therefore, surely, there is no reason for this differentiation. No doubt, the reason why, in the first instance, the difference was made was that in the National Insurance Act of 1911 both health insurance and unemployment insurance were embodied and, because the differentiation was made in the case of health insurance, I presume the same differentiation was made in the case of unemployment insurance. But when you are dealing with health you are guarding against a purely personal risk and a personal liability, and it may be argued perfectly justifiably—possibly facts and figures will support the view—that there is a greater margin of risk with regard to sickness when you are dealing with women as compared with men. Whether that is so or not, I would submit that when you are dealing with unemployment the risk against which you are insuring is purely a trade risk and is not an individual risk, and therefore there is no reason in logic why you should have a different rate for a woman who is employed from that for a man who is employed, because the liability to unemployment is not in any way affected by the question of sex, but is affected entirely by outside causes, those of commerce and of industry, and surely it is not sensible to suggest for a moment that because a mill employs a large number of women instead of employing a number of men the risk of unemployment is going to be less because women are employed than because men are employed, and surely you ought to have one fund for this risk.
Why should you have two separate funds on the question of unemployment? It is one common risk and surely there 1246 ought to be one common fund as a protection against the risk of unemployment. Consequently I submit that it is altogether a false analogy to compare a health insurance risk with the industrial risk of trade unemployment. It is not a question of the principle of equalisation of wages or of pay because the amount that is granted cannot in any sense be considered as an equivalent to a wage grant. It is but a meagre grant towards subsistence, level, and I do not suppose my right hon. Friend himself would consider for a moment that 15s. was in any way an adequate amount to keep either a single woman or a woman with a family. The woman worker who has her family to keep, a widow or whatever it may be with dependants, is in a much worse position even than a man and there is no reason on earth why this differentiation should be made. The right hon. Gentleman has resisted the plea of differentiation as between single and married men and I appeal to him to be consistent and also to resist the differentiation between the woman and the man in relation to sex. I again submit that it is entirely a trade risk and not an individual risk and therefore in logic there is no reason on earth why you should differentiate.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
May I, without repeating arguments which have been urged, add a word or two dealing with a particular trade which is so circumstanced that differentiation between women and men is always bitterly resented. There are at least 200,000 women in Yorkshire and Lancashire working side by side with men at piece rates, earning the same wages under the same conditions in the same way. I want to make an appeal to the Minister not to continue the practice of separating these women from the men in the matter of insurance under the Unemployment Act. We have felt it to be a grievance, and we think the grievance ought to be removed, and that women ought to be put on equal terms with men. There is just one argument, and only one, that has been used previously which I will refer to. It may be that there is not a very large percentage of women who actually maintain a home, but I know there is a very large number of cases indeed in Lancashire in which the woman is the wage-earner and the keeper of her children. In those cases 15s. is so miserably inadequate that I do not think any argument is needed. 1247 The women ought to pay the same and receive the same as men. Differentiation in at least one big trade is a bad thing. The conditions are equal, and they ought to be equal under the Insurance Act, on the ground that in a very large number of cases indeed it means a very serious hardship. I appeal to the Minister to remove the disability and to let women enter on equal terms with men into the Insurance Act, whatever the benefits may be, and whatever the contributions may be fixed at.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
We are working in an atmosphere of friendly compromise, if not actual agreement, and while my right hon. Friend, while the Amendment was being moved, returned a very emphatic negative to the proposal as a whole, I am not without hope that some remnant of the same spirit which induced him to meet the general feeling of the Committee on the last Amendment may still be loft over for this articular question. It seems perfectly logical, having raised the allowance for a man from 18s. to 20s., that something must be done in the case of the woman. The logical thing, of course, is to give the extra 2s. There must be some ground of agreement or compromise between leaving things as they are and refusing the request made by the Mover of the Amendment. I suggest that my right hon. Friend might shorten the discussion by indicating at once how far he is prepared to go, because I feel pretty sure he cannot resist not only the logic of the situation, but his own sympathy with and understanding of this specially difficult part of the problem.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am afraid I cannot entertain for a moment the proposition to recast the whole of the scheme of the Bill, its finance, benefit, contributions and all the rest of it, on the basis of equal benefit for both men and women. That was fought out upstairs last year, but it is manifest to anyone, particularly now that the benefits are to be raised, that to equalise them would really mean that I should have to prepare a new Bill, and the matter is very urgent. But having raised the men's benefit to £l, it will be necessary, and it will, of course, naturally be a logical part of my proposal, to readjust at any rate the relationship, so that they shall remain the same as between the men and the women. At pre- 1248 sent the men get 15s. and the women get 12s. I have now raised the men to 20s., and it will be necessary, therefore, to restore the proportion, and four-fifths of 20s. is 16s. Therefore I hope the House will agree to that without further discussion, because it is as much as I can possibly do to restore the relationship, and the women's benefit will therefore become 16s. I hope that will satisfy my hon. Friend, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw his Amendment and move it in that form I shall be personally obliged.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I realise that that is the best we can get, and I ask leave to withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Further Amendment made: Leave out the word "fifteen" ["fifteen shillings respectively"] and insert instead thereof the word "sixteen."—[Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy.]
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, after the word "respectively" ["and fifteen shillings respectively"], to insert the words "and two shillings and sixpence for each child under the age of sixteen years."
I do not know if my right hon. Friend can hold out any hopes. If he is going to accept the Amendment, it might be necessary, to make it clear, to put in the words "dependent on an unemployed person," but I do not think that is necessary from the advice I have taken. This is a very modest allowance. It is not what I should have been inclined to suggest if I had a free hand at all. I fully support the views of my hon. Friends of the Labour party that it should be 5s. for each child or dependant, because I think children are the last who ought to suffer. The treatment of children is the acid test of the civilisation of a people. Whereas we make no special allowance for the child of an unemployed civilian in this country, although we do for the soldier—and what difference there can be between the soldier's child and the civilian's I do not know; it is hot the child's fault—in much abused Russia, whatever we may thing about blood letting in that country and economic experiments, it is admitted by all observers who are in a position to speak that the first of foodstuffs, milk and medicines go to the children Here we are in this 1249 country with children suffering most severely on account of the present trade depression. It is a tremendously shortsighted policy. It means that we are stunting the growth and development of the citizens of to-morrow, and when the Prime Minister talks about an A1 nation being necessary for an A1 empire I should have thought he might have considered the plight of the child of the unemployed civilian to-day. Even if it means bankrupting the fund I think the House would willingly grant the Ministry money for this matter. If the Government would come to the House and explain the condition of the children and ask the House to vote the extra money to do what it is necessary to do for them, probably the cost in a year would only be that of a couple of super-Dreadnoughts, and I suppose we shall embark on a building programme unless the House recovers its sanity very shortly. At that price we could supply this little extra alleviation which would make all the difference in the next generation. Although I am sorry the Minister of Labour has been forced by unsympathetic colleagues to harden his heart, I am not without hope that the House will support us in this thoroughly humane and, I consider, civilised arrangement of a subsistence allowance for unemployed children.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
It is a little ungracious to resist an appeal made on behalf of children. I share my hon. and gallant Friend's sensibility in respect to these little creatures, but, after all, this is an insurance based upon actuarial calculations. The concessions which I have made so far, have been made with due regard to taking risks, if you like, more than I have proposed to take, but they have been made with regard to what the fund will bear. You cannot at this juncture on a claim so urgent as this, make a proposal of the kind now put forward, in connection with which there are no actuarial calculations. I have not the faintest idea to what sort of charge I should be committed. What I do know is, that we have gone not only to the very limits of the possible resources of the fund, but that we shall wipe it out by the concessions which we have already made. I must appeal to my hon. and gallant Friend not to press this Amendment, but to rest satisfied with what has already been accomplished.
§ Mr. THOMAS
One can only regret that the House is not full to consider an Amendment of this kind. From all sides of the House Members have said in substance: "Our complaint against the present method of insurance is because no consideration is given to family responsibility." One Member said: "Why should we give a dole to the domestic servant, when we know from experience that they will not look for work." Another Member said: "Why cannot this House realise the difference between the young, single man, and the man with seven or eight children." The Amendment that we are now considering gives the House the opportunity of differentiating. We have decided that £l should be the recognised sum for men. No hon. Member will pretend for a moment that £l to-day is too much for man and wife, but in the case of a man with two, three, four, five, or six children, the position must appeal to Members in all parts of the House. The right hon. Gentleman told us that this is an Insurance Bill. What is the meaning of an Insurance Bill?
§ Mr. THOMAS
Let us consider what an Insurance Bill means. I refuse to believe that the definition of insurance is purely a calculation of pounds, shillings and pence. It is insurance against unemployment, against under-feeding, and against starvation. That is the definition of insurance just as much as the mathematical calculation, and we are entitled to say that the first consideration in such circumstances are the children. We all appreciate the difficulties of my right hon. Friend, and we appreciate the manner in which he endeavoured to meet the last Amendment; but I do urge upon him now to realise that here is an opportunity of saying that we ought to differentiate in regard to family responsibility, and, so far as this House is concerned, the first consideration should be the children.
§ Mr. BRIANT
It is quite obvious that the object of insurance is to prevent persons during a state of unemployment from being in a state of destitution. If you apply that test to this question, £l a week does not keep a family from destitution, or anything like it. It will not keep one man from destitution, much 1251 less a man with a wife and family, and I want the Committee to remember, what many speakers have forgotten, that it is a complete illusion to imagine that because the State does not provide enough for maintenance the balance necessary falls down like manna from heaven. If people are not to starve the money must come from somewhere. The nation one way or another has to pay for unemployment, and the present method is wrong. I can speak from practical experience of a Board of Guardians which is paying £500 a week for the relief of unemployment. That means that the burden has to fall upon the backs of ratepayers in an industrial area already overburdened with rates. That should be a charge on the community as a whole, and not upon a particular borough which is already overburdened with charges. If you are going to recognise the State's liability or responsibility towards the children, the only safe way to do it is to do it directly by the State giving a definite amount per head. Anyone who has had practical experience as I have knows that there are only three methods of getting assistance. One is from the Unemployment Funds, the other from the board of guardians, and the other from various charitable funds. The effect is disastrous. You have overlapping, and you have a man or a woman receiving money from different funds. It would be much better for the State to take the responsibility, and deal with the whole question. The allowance should depend upon the responsibilities of the man. That is the only sound system by which you can give an unemployment grant. I know the financial difficulties, but some time or other we shall have to face these facts. In giving a certain amount irrespective of the responsibilities of a man, we are not dealing with the question, but we are simply pushing the responsibility on to the boards of guardians, or we are taking money out of the pockets of the charitable. Both the latter methods are undesirable. We had better boldly face the facts, and recognise the unemployed as a charge upon the general community, and we had better add the logical conclusion by allowing so much per child.
§ Mr. R. GRAHAM
Most hon. Members will recognise that this Amendment is of greater importance than those which the 1252 Minister has already conceded. The effect of this Amendment would do more to prevent or to alleviate suffering incurred by unemployment than will the increase in the rate payable to men and women. In the Debate yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary expressed the opinion that differential benefits for flat rate contribution would fail to receive the approval of the workers of this country. The hon. Gentleman may remember that I disagreed with the conclusion he expressed. I am now able to give him one clear example and one partial example of the successful application of that principle. The partial example is the provision by the Cotton Control Board of allowances for the children of unemployed persons. It is quite true that the cotton workers have not individually contributed to the fund from which the benefits to the workers and the allowances for children are paid, but the fact that I desire to emphasise is that there is no disapproval whatever of the payment of extra allowances to the parents and guardians of children. The complete example which I desire to offer is that of the miners. I am told by the miners' representatives in this House that all the members of their association who are over the specified age, which I believe is 16 years, contribute the same weekly sum and that in the event of unemployment caused by strikes, lock-outs, or depression in trade, every member over that age receives the same benefit, but an additional benefit of 2s. for each child is paid to the parent or guardian of the child. These I consider to be two examples of the successful application of that principle, to which no objection is taken by those who are subject to it. I should like to appeal to the Minister to be less concerned about the actuarial correctness of his Bill than about the purposes which the Bill should serve. It does seem to me to be very curious that so much emphasis should be put by the Minister upon that factor in his proposal, having regard to the extraordinary suffering which has been mentioned by almost every speaker. Without unduly emphasising that, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to have regard not only to the credit which he may obtain from this Bill, but the credit which the Government may obtain as well as those Members who have contributed to the discussion as a result of 1253 the adoption of a more generous scheme, with less consideration for the factor of actuarial correctness, which makes no appeal to the unemployed workman or workwoman.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I join in the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to avail him self of this opportunity to differentiate. One pound per week for males and 16s. for females has been granted, and there will be payments for youths and young persons between the ages of 16 and 18. There is, however, a very important gap for which no provision has been made, and I am sure that hon. Members need not be appealed to in vain on this point. Any effort that may be necessary ought to be made to fill the gap in the programme. One only needs to be in a working-class district to see day by day the difference in the appearance of the children on their way to school. You can see the lessening of the joviality or the happy human appearance of the children now as compared even with a month ago, and it is particularly hard where the head of the family is a widow who is in receipt of unemployment pay and who has dependents between the ages of one and 16. It ought to be the case that the head of the family, whether it be a father with a wife and children, or a widow responsible for the maintenance and bringing up of her children, should receive the same provision. I appealed yesterday to the Minister of Labour to include in the unemployment insurance young persons between the ages of 14 and 16. Evidently that cannot at the moment be done, but when you get a young person between 14 and 16 thrown out of employment, with no avenue of income, that in itself is a very heavy drag and cannot in any sense be met by the extra 2s. that has been conceded in the case of the adult male person. It may be perfectly true that children of school age may have some sustenance during the periods of their school attendance, but you have children from the time of their birth up to five years of age before they qualify for school attendance, and from 14 up to 16 when positively no avenue is open to them for sustenance. It ought not to be necessary to make this appeal any more emphatic than it has been already made. Dr. Saleeby made an exhaustive inquiry into the cost of rearing certain children, and in his opinion it cannot be done, if we are to 1254 provide the proper nutritious food which a child ought to have an opportunity of assimilating, under from 25s. to 30s. a week. Every Member who has spoken in Committee to-day has spoken of the desirability of differentiating between the head of the household and the younger person. Here is the opportunity for making provision for that gap, which is the most deadly and threatening gap in the whole of our social system, and I think we ought at all events to give what the Amendment is asking, namely, 2s. 6d. extra for each dependant child below the age of 16.
§ Mr. FRANCE
I have already spoken this afternoon on this subject of differentiation, and it is one on which I feel very strongly. I do not very often agree with the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Amendment (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), but I agree entirely with the motive which he has in putting forward this Amendment. But I feel at this stage that it is really important that this Bill should pass into law as quickly as possible. As the Government have considered the point which the House pressed upon them, and thereby have practically seen pass from their purview the funds within the scope of the Bill, I honestly cannot see that at this moment and in this Bill this Amendment can be carried with advantage without damaging and injuring the Bill as a whole. But I think the value of the discussion is very great, and I sincerely hope the Government will consider the point that there should be provided either a special grant for the purpose of helping the head of a house with a family, or that there should be added to the scheme some provision of insurance for children at a lower rate of payment, and that the Government will not lose sight of the fact that throughout the House as a whole there is an urgent desire that those who have families should not be unduly strained in times like the present. While holding that view very strongly, I feel that under this scheme it is almost impossible to ask, when there is no money left, that a further payment should be made in respect of children. I have only risen to emphasise that this is a matter that requires very earnest consideration.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I agree with much that has been said by my hon. Friend (Mr. France), but, after all, it is a very wise provision of Parliament 1255 that we should not be able to increase the liabilities on the Treasury by any Amendment in a Bill. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Member would simply smash the Bill by the charges which it would involve. If there is going to be any payment in respect of children at all, 2s. 6d. is quite inadequate. What is the effect of any proposal like this? It has this effect on the public mind: It creates an impression that the thing is being provided for by the Government, and those private channels which assist children in time of scarcity will be dried up. That would be very disastrous, and I hope the Government will resist these proposals. There is no guarantee whatever under this proposal that the money would be devoted to the children. It would be in the great majority of cases, but the Government are bound to see that it is used for the purpose which it is intended for in all cases and the machinery must be organised. The proper channels into which such money should go would be, I think, the welfare centres and the education centres, which would see that the children are properly fed, and so forth.
§ Mr. FRANCE
There was no guarantee that the money paid during the War to wives with dependents would be spent on the children, but the State did entrust them with money for that purpose, and there is no ground for suggesting it was not properly applied.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The circumstances of the War were very special. This is an Unemployment Bill. Insurance is given for men and women unemployed, and it is not intended in this Bill to provide any money except for unemployment. The provision for children is a separate1 thing altogether. If the Government wanted to come forward later to assist the children they would see that the children got it direct, and those who are concerned with the children, such as welfare centres and education centres, would be the best qualified to render assistance to the children.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I want to make my appeal to the Minister to concede this Amendment. The hon. Member who has just sat down pointed out that if the Government would only agree to this Amendment it would smash the Bill. I 1256 think it is better to smash the Bill than to smash the lives of little children in this country, because that is what is being done to-day. Last Sunday night I was in my own constituency. The distress prevailing there is very great. They were holding a concert in order to relieve the distress. There was a doctor present at the meeting, and I do not believe anybody can express what is taking place among the poor of the country better than the medical men. This is what Dr. Graham Thomas said:There were children starving that night in Pontypool. Women came to him, and he was pointing out to them that it was not medicine they wanted, but bread.What does that mean? It means this, that if you are going to give the head of a family with no children £1 a week, and the head of a family with four or five children the same amount, there are six who will receive a part of the sovereign in one home, whereas the sovereign will be divided between two in the other, and we know that the parents of children are always prepared to make sacrifices in order to see that their children are fed. The heads of families in which there are children, therefore, are going to suffer far more than the heads of families in which there are no children. Another point I should like to bring before the attention of the Minister is this. There is the greatest drain there has ever been known in my time upon the funds of the trade unions throughout the country to-day. I will take my own society as an illustration. We to-day have paid out during the last quarter £110,000 to our unemployed members. We have an extra staff in the office in order to deal with this question, because when we have normal employment we only require a certain staff. Our funds are all pooled. We pay accident benefit, funeral benefit, unemployed benefit, and also superannuation benefit, and my Executive have come to this conclusion, that that pool shall all be paid out in order to meet the distress among the men, women, and children of our members. If a trade union is doing that, surely the Government that we consider ought to be a model employer ought to be prepared to stretch the length of accepting this Amendment? Seeing the distress that has prevailed and the struggle that is taking place among those children, I appeal to the Minister to accept this Amendment.
1257 In conclusion I would like to point out this, that yesterday in our Labour Conference in London, the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and the right hon. Member for Miles Platting (Mr. Clynes) appealed to what I may call the level-headed men of the trade union movement to adopt constitutional methods; but when they were appealing, they were appealing to people probably with full stomachs. If they had gone out to the streets to meet the unemployed marching with their bands and their banners in different parts of London and appealed to them, it would have been a different matter altogether, because you can reason with a man with a full stomach, but you cannot reason with a man with an empty stomach. You seem to be very pessimistic; you seem to think that this depression of trade is going to last until 1922. I am more optimistic. I think things will improve as we go along soon, and that this is the great emergency. I hope that the Minister will accept this Amendment. If not, I will go into the Lobby with the hon. Member in support of it.
§ Major ENTWISTLE
I support the Amendment. I was very surprised to hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) alleging as one of the reasons against giving this allowance that you could not trust the parents to use it for the benefit of the child. That is a very unworthy aspersion in any case, and it is not as if there was no other precedent for it. We have one in the case of our War pensions. If a man in the Army has any children there is now under the pensions scheme an allowance for the wife. There was not until the report of the Select Committee, but there always was an allowance for children, and that allowance has been increased to 10s. for the first child and 7s. 6d. for the second. Here we have a very moderate proposal of 2s. 6d. per child. If you can trust the payment of a pension of 10s. a week on behalf of a child, à fortiori you ought to trust a parent to disburse this 2s. 6d. on behalf of a child. Another reason advanced against this Amendment is that the amount is totally inadequate, and, if granted, might dry up the springs of private charity. That is a most extraordinary argument. If it is inadequate, as it is, that will in no way stop the necessity for further assistance from 1258 charitable or other sources, and the fact that a child will have 2s. 6d. from the State will only mean that that child will be that much better off.
Then there was a further argument that this was dealing with unemployment and not with children, and the children should be dealt with by welfare societies or some other means. The whole object of this payment to the unemployed is really to save them from absolute need. It is not a maintenance allowance. It is not sufficient to keep them in any decent standard of life, but only to keep them from starvation. It is the barn minimum that the State can give, for if the man has children this minimum falls lamentably short even of what is barely necessary to keep the wolf from the door. I am in favour of differential treatment for married people, and those with responsibility, but apart from that question I cannot see any difficulty in making this allowance to the child. We have the precedent of the pensions to soldiers and sailors and their dependants. I do not think that there ought to be any question of the difference in the contribution to be made by a person who has children. I submit with every confidence that the man who has no children would not object to pay no less a contribution than the man who was fortunate enough to have done his duty to the State by having a family. This Amendment will not smash the Bill. If the finance of it needs any amendment it is a very simple process to increase the rate of contribution which the Government could do. The proposition is so reasonable and moderate that it should commend itself to every section of the House.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Sir M. Barlow)
One's natural sympathies go with those who urge the point of view expressed in this Amendment, but, putting it very shortly and very directly, this is an Amendment which the Government are not prepared to accept for various reasons. First, there is the great difficulty about setting up machinery, and it would mean not only confusion but delay in securing the benefits of the Bill which the House would be wise to put through as promptly as possible. But if delay is preferred, there again I would point out to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have pressed the point that it is reasonable there should be a payment for 1259 children that the instances whch they have given have been instances where there is no contribution. There was one case, that of the miners. The mere fact that that was an exception showed the rarity of the cases where there was a contribution, and a differentiation between married and single men. In the case of the Cotton Control Board you get the whole of the money contributed by an outside authority. You have not yet got the principle established in the community that you can pay different benefits where there is a flat rate contribution. One right hon. Gentleman suggested that it is a matter for consideration. I think that the Debate has been very useful in ventilating the question as to whether something cannot be done in the matter of children's allowances. I can assure the House that there must be other Amend-
§ ments to the Insurance Act as time goes on, and we will give the matter every consideration. But with that assurance I ask the House to accept the fact that the Government cannot accept the Amendment and to let us get on.
§ Mr. R. GRAHAM
Are we to understand that the principle is acceptable to the Government so that we shall have no further doubt about the matter?
§ Sir M. BARLOW
We will put ourselves in touch with all the interests concerned. The only instance given was the miners. Generally speaking there is no differentiation, but we will take all steps we can to collect the feeling on the subject.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 54; Noes, 99.1261
|Division No. 8.]||AYES.||[8.24 p.m.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-la-Spring)|
|Sreese, Major Charles E.||Hallas, Eldred||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Briant, Frank||Hartshorn, Vernon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bromfield, William||Hayday, Arthur||Spencer, George A.|
|Cape, Thomas||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A, (Widnes)||Swan, J. E.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hirst, G. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Jephcott, A. R.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Davies A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Johnstone, Joseph||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John J.||Williams, Aneurln (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilson, w. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Finney, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Glanville, Harold James||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Major Barnes.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Redmond, Captain William Archer|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lambert. Rt. Hon. George|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Evans, Ernest||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lorden, John William|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Forestier-Walker, L.||Lynn, R. J.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Forrest, Walter||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gange, E. Stanley||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gardiner, James||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Mason, Robert|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mitchell, William Lane|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Moles, Thomas|
|Bigland, Alfred||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Molson, Major John Eisdale|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Neal, Arthur|
|Blair, sir Reginald||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Borwick, Major G. o.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Britton, G. B.||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Bruton, sir James||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Renwick, George|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Sugden, W. H.||Williams, Lieut.-Com. C. (Tavistock)||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Waddington, R.||Wise, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Waring, Major Walter||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.