§ (3) As from and after the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, paragraph (1) of the Second Schedule to the principal Act (which provides that unemployment benefit shall be payable in respect of each week of any continuous period of unemployment after the first three days of unemployment) shall have effect as if the words "the first week" were therein substituted for the words "the first three days," and paragraph (b) of Sub-section (2) of Section seven of the. principal Act (which defines a continuous period of unemployment), shall have effect as if the words "one week" were therein substituted for the words "three days."
§ (4) The power of the Minister to make Regulations under Section thirty-five of the principal Act shall include power to make Regulations providing, in the case of any persons who are insured at the commencement of this Act, for the transition from the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Acts, 1920 and 1921, to the provisions of those Acts as amended by this Act.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
There is. an Amendment in my name to Clause 2—to leave out the words "twenty-three," and to insert the words "twenty-two." Is that not in order?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I was not proposing to select that Amendment. It seems to cover the point of the solvency of the fund, which has been dealt with by the last decision of the House.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
It would neither add to nor reduce anything connected with the financial aspect. It only proposes that "twenty-two" shall take the place of "twenty-three,' or when the fund is solvent, whichever is the later period.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is quite true, and it really has very little effect, because the option remains with the Minister.
§ Mr. W. CARTER
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (3).
This Sub-section extends the waiting time from three days to a week. It will 1918 inflict a very great hardship on thousands of members who are compelled to contribute to the unemployed fund, but who will at no time receive any benefits. The mining industry is very peculiar in regard to shortage of time. We never find a whole pit on holiday for a full week. When there is a shortage of trade it is usual for the pits to make half-day or three-quarters. Sometimes the miners will have to go to the pit six times for three days' work. If this Sub-section remains, it will deprive miners from ever having any benefits whatever from the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, in Committee, said it was because of industries of that kind that he was able to pay the benefits that were paid When members of the community are compelled to contribute towards the fund, it is only honest to confer on them the right to participate in benefits when they are unemployed. There are other trades similarly situated to the miners. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman is purposely perpetrating a hardship upon any part of the community, but if he were only willing he could make some provision whereby those who contribute shall participate in the benefits. There are many penalties and hardships that the Bill puts upon members, but there is none, in my judgment, that penalises them so much as this. You have increased their contributions, and decreased their benefits as much as 25 per cent., and this Subsection increases the waiting period by 100 per cent. We have it on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself that we have now 1,250,000 unemployed, and he is legislating on the basis that that 1,250,000 will be unemployed for 12 months. That means that 1,250,000 will have to wait practically a fortnight before they receive any benefit from this unemployment fund. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will respond to the appeal which is made, I believe, from all sides of the House, and do something to remove the penalty which is being put upon a class of the community which is compelled to contribute, but under no circumstances can participate in the benefits.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I beg to second the Amendment I should like to draw attention to the difference between the Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister. The Minister of Labour is obsessed with pessimism, while his Leader, the Prime Minister, last week was quite hopeful that the slump in trade was coming to an end in a very short time. I am not sure which advice we are to accept, but surely when the Prime Minister is certain that the slump is passing away the Minister of Labour might take heart and at least give us this little Amendment. As a miner, I know that what was said by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment is true. The miners contribute very largely to this fund, but they will never have an opportunity of drawing any benefit from it unless the Amendment is accepted. The Government have prevented us from contracting out. For two-pence a week we are able to pay 20s. a week to our own people, but the Government say, "You must not contract out; you must contribute to a national scheme." Then by this increase in the waiting period they take away any chance of our ever drawing a penny in benefit.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Before replying on the Amendment I venture, with great respect, to make an appeal to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Clynes) and my hon. Friends opposite. It is of the utmost importance that I should get this Bill read the Third time to-night, as it has to go immediately to another place and become law this week. The operative machinery has to be set working on Friday. My hon. Friends may say, "We do not want this Bill; we want something better." I recognise that, and have done so throughout the whole Debate, but you will not get something better by leaving everything in a state of muddle. There is a great responsibility attaching to anyone who leaves the thing in the air in a perfect state of muddle. I resisted an invitation to make an appeal to Mr. Speaker to allow me to speak twice, because I felt that my duty was to make my reply complete on each occasion, and as short as possible. I did not succeed, however, in convincing my hon. Friends.
There are two issues involved in the Sub-section which is proposed to be left out. There is the initial waiting period, and there is the continuity rule—the continuity rule after the waiting period 1920 has been satisfied. As regards the waiting period, it was six days from the beginning, in the Act of 1911, in the Act of 1916 and in the Act of 1919, and I made it three days in the Act of 1920. It has been three days from the 8th November last and will be three days up-to the close of this week. We have to-go back to the six days, because in-cutting our coat according to our cloth we have to make such readjustments as we think are fair and equitable in the distribution of the burden which is cast upon us by the overwhelming growth of unemployment which is rendering our Fund insolvent. In going back to the six days, which I hope the House will give me, I shall gain in a year £2,200,000. That is something in the direction of a set-off for the £9,000,000 additional: provision which I have to make even in my financially embarrassed condition to-meet the two extra periods of six weeks.
The waiting period and the continuity rule will undoubtedly affect the cases of some people who are now working half-time and drawing benefit, because undoubtedly there are some who, working, half-time, are earning, not such a wage as one would wish, but such a wage as I think in some cases ought to cause them to say: "I think the unemployment benefit might be conserved for those of my comrades who are down and out altogether." Under the proposal in this; Sub-section this is what would happen— a man could work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and stand off Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in one week. In the next week he could stand off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, thereby making six days. He could work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and he could do that in successive fortnights and still draw half-time wage and unemployment benefit. Alternatively he could work all' one week and stand off—[HON. MEMBERS: "Things are not arranged that way!"] There has been a good deal of endeavour, and I am very grateful for it, in a certain-number of directions to arrange half-time on behalf of the workpeople concerned, and I am grateful that that sort of thing has been arranged between the employers and their employés. A man could work all one week and stand off the other week and still draw benefit. He could work two days and stand off two days and continue the practice and draw benefit. He could work two days in each week and 1921 stand off the other four and still draw benefit. He could work one day and stand off five days and still draw benefit. He could not draw benefit by working and standing off alternately single days. That would not be possible. He could not draw benefit if he worked five days and stood off one day. He could not draw benefit if he worked four days and stood off two days. To that extent there are variations which are not altogether inequitable or altogether unjustified. I was compelled to meet part of my provision in this direction, and I hope I may ask the House to let the Sub-section stand and to proceed in such a way that we shall get the Third Beading to-night.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I cannot give any consolation to my right hon. Friend in regard to the appeal which he has made to us to look at this matter solely from the standpoint of his own embarrassments. We cannot in any sense of the term do anything which would appear to be an act of co-operation with my right hon. Friend in getting this Bill through. I recognise the difficulties to which he has referred, the breakdown of the financial provisions of the law as it is. But we have not been without suggesting a course which might have been followed to overcome these financial and other embarrassments. The right hon. Gentleman has chosen to disregard any suggestions which we have made.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My right hon. Friend will find it difficult to mention a single instance showing acceptance of any proposals which we have made.
§ Mr. CLYNES
If my right hon. Friend thinks that is a point of substance which has any relation to what I am now referring to he is welcome to the satisfaction of that concession. The point is that we have submitted an alternative to overcome the difficulties due to the breakdown of the Act and, instead of trying to meet the financial difficulty by increased contributions, drawing more on the still present resources and more particularly on the country's future prosperity. Instead of taking the simpler course he has brought in a Bill raising new issues, and in this instance we are dealing with 1922 a particular attack upon the man who is now only unemployed three days and has a right to benefit, but who in future will have to play a week for benefit. That and many other issues which need not have been introduced he has embodied in the Bill, and therefore we have a right to challenge them and contest them in the time at our disposal. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is of the utmost importance to get the Bill through. We think that it is of the utmost importance for the unemployed workmen that it-should not get through. In that sense we are offering opposition.
I am sorry that this Amendment has been discussed in the absence of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who shortly will decide in the Lobby the fate of the particular issue now before us. We have not been favoured to any great extent with an audience to which we could put the merits of the case. There is still a case in favour of a number of these Amendments, and if we had been favoured by the presence of hon. Members to a larger extent they might have been disposed to support us by their votes. This particular Amendment deals with an instance of that attack in detail which the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to support. He is reversing in this matter a settled policy. Formerly the conditions were that a man seldom if ever got paid until he had been out of work a week. Formerly, I admit, that the rules of many trade unions contained that provision, and there may be some trade unions whose rules contain it still. But the whole tendency of recent years has been to enlarge the opportunity of members receiving benefit, and not to narrow it as is now proposed in this Bill. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is reversing a policy previously settled by this House and is going back to a condition from which we have emerged as a result of general practical experience.
The real objection is that it does penalise one section of the unemployed who are compelled to pay as much as anybody else. There is equality of payment but not equality of opportunity in regard to the chance of benefit, because the conditions of employment vary from trade to trade and from town to town. The nearer we could get to paying for every day of unemployment the fairer it would be. My right hon. Friend is leaving out of account altogether existing 1923 conditions of money values and the state of all classes already impoverished by the effects of trade depression and continued unemployment. If we were at the beginning and not well through a period of the most bitter unemployment which the country has ever experienced, if privations had not been endured for so long as they have been, something might be said for suggesting that certain workmen should not receive benefit in order that others should receive benefit. But in face of what are still very high prices, the continued short time, and the existing degree of unemploymnet, it is a real hardship to expect people to forfeit three days' pay.
The right hon. Gentleman is not putting this matter in its real proportion in relation to household conditions. There are many working-class families in this country who for months have not been living on what they have got either from the State or are getting from the funds of trade unions. They have been living on the household resources which they have had to sell or pawn. Many have been living on money which they have been compelled to borrow, and at such a time as this, after all the privations which they have endured, the right hon. Gentleman asks us to agree to this further reduction of the opportunities of benefit. We are entitled to hear something as to what may be the particular saving under the provision which is now being discussed. I do not think my right hon. Friend mentioned a figure.
§ Mr. CLYNES
We are entitled to make provision to the extent of providing that money rather than imposing upon the unemployed the sacrifice and suffering which are represented by that figure. If there is any justification for saving £2,000,000 by this device, why not try the justification further and save the whole lot by refusing to pay anything at all? If it be true that the Government can find money up to the point of that £2,000,000, I refuse to believe that they cannot go further and provide a sum of that kind without asking that particular class to make this sacrifice. We cannot give any appearance of agreeing to a retrograde step of this sort. I cannot quite make out why the right hon. Gentleman undertakes this work so cheerfully. He may have fears 1924 in his inner mind, but, clearly, he is not making his feelings manifest in relation to the reality of the sufferings of the class which, here and there, he is attacking in detail.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Men who are compelled equally to pay according to the circumstances of their labour should be placed equally before the law, and when they are merely unemployed for a shorter period than someone else, they ought not to be robbed of the money to which clearly they are entitled.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
This Amendment, or a similar one, was discussed in detail in Committee, and I had hoped that in the interim between then and now the Minister would have seen his way clear to make such provision as would render this Amendment unnecessary. There is something more than £2,200,000 involved in it, something more than a mere extra three days. In Committee I thought I was able to prove the possibility of an insured person losing 30 days in one year and never becoming entitled to one day of unemployment benefit. That is the case where a man has a seasonal occupation— not casual labour—and is only intermittently in employment, has no particular fixed occupation, and goes, say, from one factory to another. Such a man may easily have five days out continuously, he may find work on the sixth day, be at work for a week, then again another four or five days out, work again for another week or fortnight, and then have another four or five days out. So he can go on without ever qualifying for a halfpenny of benefit under this six days' continuous unemployment regulation. While the Minister of Labour thinks that this is part of the sacrifice to be made in order that he might save £2,200,000, he will be saving more than £500,000 by reason of the disqualification mentioned. Acceptance of the Amendment will not hurt the scheme, because in all the discussions on the financial proposals of the Bill he has been very careful to avoid the blunders, or rather the miscalculations, of his Department—miscalculations that have made it necessary to have three Unemployment Insurance Bills in nine months. By under-estimating the number which would be out of employment and by under- 1925 estimating the liabilities, it is now necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to ask for these higher contributions and to suggest these smaller benefits and this extra waiting period. But with all that thrown in, there is £5,250,000 in reserve at the moment.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
Then £2,000,000 has gone since we discussed the matter last Friday. There is power for borrowing from the Treasury up to £20,000,000.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
But you got your Financial Resolution the other night. You are drawing on the Treasury for £20,000,000. You have extra contributions coming in next month from employers, from the Government, and from insured persons. You estimate that with the gradual lessening of the acuteness of unemployment within the next few months you will, by July of next year, have £1,250,000 of unemployed funds, and on that estimate you state that you will draw only upon £16,500,000 of the £20,000,000 you have taken powers to borrow. That is a margin of £3,500,000. Now you say it is very essential to have this six days' waiting period instead of three days, because the financial basis of the whole structure depends upon your saving £2,200,000. I think you can concede this point and make the three days' waiting period the established period. It is true we advocate that it should start from the first day, because even your three days' waiting period is handicap enough on employed persons when they have one on and one off and one on and one off, never permitting them to qualify at all. When you ask the employers to arrange this short time rather than to throw huge numbers on to the unemployed market of the country, some have arranged it in that way for the purposes of their industry. They could not do it possibly in any other way.
Now you have taken six days. We know that when it was part of a previous Act we had people who had five or six periods of unemployment and were never able to claim a penny piece. I suggest that that is the very class which requires the greatest degree of protection and the greatest measure of broad-minded 1926 generosity, if one may put it in that way. The broadest possible interpretation should be put on Regulations which cover those who are intermittently in work. No great concession has been made. The State is getting out of its obligations cheaply at the expense of its two partners. It demands 1s. 3d. from the employer and the workman in their joint contributions, and it pays one-quarter of that amount, instead of accepting a third of the responsibility. If the State would undertake to pay its third share and accept a third of the responsibility, it would be called upon to pay something like another £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 in its contributions. That would be only fair and equitable. The State would then be able to waive the three days, and either reduce the contributions or increase the benefits. The right hon. Gentleman may be anxious to get his Bill, but let me remind him that if he does not get the Bill the old Act must operate.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
Where did it come from before? My right hon. Friend still has that £10,000,000 under the old Act. That he has not touched. The other £3,750,000 added will leave him with £13,750,000 at the moment. Therefore, there is no great hurry to reduce the benefit, and to increase the difficulties as well as the contributions of the insured persons.
§ Mr. SPENCER
The importance of this particular Amendment becomes more apparent when it is considered in connection with another Amendment further down on the Paper, one for which I think I am right in contemplating defeat. The object of this Amendment is to bring us back again to the three days' waiting period. The Minister has thought fit to alter the policy of the three day period and make it six. That is going to prevent men in some industries, whose labour is intermittent, from ever being able to get a single penny of benefit. The policy of the Government formerly was that industries should have the right to make their own schemes, and the Ministry is now trying to withdraw that right. The desire to make schemes existed very largely, either because they had a low percentage of unemployment or the unemployment was of such a character that the Regulations laid down under this Bill would not meet the case. When the Bill was in Committee the Minister promised to give 1927 consideration to the appeal made by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) on behalf of the casual labourers. I have been looking in vain for my right hon. Friend to do something. It is on the records of the Committee that he said he would look into it, and that if the Treasury gave its sanction, he would in all probability take steps on the Report stage to meet the representations made.
§ Mr. SEXTON
This matter is being raised later in a manuscript Amendment. Unfortunately the Minister has not been able to accept my proposition.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SPENCER
My point is that we were expecting the Minister himself to do something to meet the case. This is not only the case of the casual labourers on whose behalf the hon. Member made representations. The whole body of the mining community was led to believe that they could have their own schemes. This is my particular grievance. I, along with other members of the miners' executive, met the Minister more than once, and we spent money and time in formulating a scheme to meet the needs of our own industry, because this particular scheme does not meet unemployment requirements as far as we are concerned. The peculiarity of the mining industry in this matter is that men are very rarely unemployed for anything like a week, unless there is a breakage or some other unforeseen circumstance. If there is a stoppage it probably means working on Monday, having a holiday on Tuesday, and so on throughout the week. A man may work on four half-days in the course of a week. In my own experience I have had in many a week five half-days' work. In these circumstances, a man really works less than half-time, yet he is never off for a complete day. Under this particular scheme it is necessary to have a waiting period of six days. According to that condition you might have a very slack time in the mining industry—you might not actually work more than two days in a week—and yet, notwithstanding the fact that a man in such circumstances may only work for six days in three weeks, he will not be entitled to a single penny of benefit, simply because he cannot show the necessary waiting period. Is it just to force 1,100,000 people 1928 into an insurance scheme, compel them to pay weekly contributions for the purpose of entitling themselves to out-of-work pay, and yet so frame and design the conditions as to make it utterly impossible for one of that number to qualify for the benefit, even where they are working less than half-time? Just before the lock-out, we, in the mining industry, paid an immense amount of money in unemployment benefit. We have been able to do that on contributions of 1s. a week, and, as a matter of fact, for years it was only 6d. a week. Yet we made provision for out-of-work pay, and now the State comes along and says to the workman: "You must pay your 7d. or 8d. and we are going to make such regulation that it will be impossible for you to get anything out of the fund unless you have six days' clear unemployment." To make such a proposal is monstrous. It is a crime against these men, but it will be effected unless this Amendment is accepted. I do not know what the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman is going to be towards the manuscript Amendment, but if it is the same as his attitude in regard to this Amendment it will mean that we shall have over 1,000,000 people paying weekly contributions towards a benefit which not ½ per cent. of them can ever enjoy under the conditions laid down. We have a rule in the mining industry that if, during eight weeks, a man only has two days' work per week, he is entitled to a week's out-of-work money. We regularly paid that during the slack season of the summer, but under these provisions, men may go through an entire summer getting only two days' work in the week, and yet never qualifying for out-of-work benefit.
§ Mr. J. DAVISON
I was considerably astonished to hear the right hon. Gentle-advance as one of the reasons for going back to a waiting period of a week, the fact that in pre-War days that was an established thing. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that during the whole period of the operation of the Unemployment Act before the War it did not cost the State £1,000,000 sterling. This proposal is now made at the very moment when there is greater unemployment than ever and greater incitement to anarchy and revolution in this country. I venture to say that if this proposal to revert to the six-day period is passed, it will do 1929 more to create that feeling than the most blatant speech of any revolutionary. I have heard in this Debate a great deal about sacrifice, but I have not heard one single instance of people who have become rich through the abnormal energy of those now unemployed, being prepared to say to the Government, like the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) that they want to be saved from the appalling fate of becoming millionaires. If they did that they would demonstrate that they were prepared to make some sacrifice in order to tide over the difficulties of this abnormal period. They could do that very effectively and supply the right hon. Gentleman with all the money that he needs for this unemployment during the next 12 months if they would forego half the interest that they are taking from the Government for the stocks which they hold as war loan stocks in this country. That is another suggestion to the Government whereby the patriotism of the people who asked the men who are now unemployed to display their patriotism during the War could be displayed, and that is an example that they could give to the old country if they desired to tide us over this very difficult period.
§ Mr. LUNN
I realise it is no use appealing to the Government for anything. They have scrapped every promise, they have destroyed everything they have said they would do, and they have no difficulty in introducing a Bill further to reduce the workers to the lowest possible level; but I think the House as a whole ought to object to the speech of a Minister who tries to show that they can receive benefits by means of any sort of trick. I marvelled that the right hon. Gentleman should make such a suggestion. He said,
§ in justification of what he was advocating, that to increase the number of days unemployed from three to six it was possible between workmen and employers jointly to secure unemployment pay if they would arrange it so that the three days off work in one week should be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and the three days in the next week Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. First of all, let me say that it is not altogether in the hands of the workmen to arrange it. It is often in the hands of the employers to fix the days on which workmen and workwomen shall be off work, but even if it is jointly arranged, it is a wrong principle for legislation to be passed by this House which will enable people to manufacture tricks of this character in order to receive benefits from the State. If I may use an illustration from an Act of Parliament—although I have nothing to say for the workmen who do it, except that it has been passed by this House many years ago—the Workmen's Compensation Act does not give compensation for less than six days being off work; it only gives it for the number of days after six days, but if a man is off for two weeks it gives compensation from the date of the accident. That is, again, a wrong principle, and a very similar one to what is suggested in this Bill. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman intends to force this through, as he has forced many other things, but may I remind him that he comes from a class—I remember him being a teacher—that has fought very hard in days gone by against the principle that he is seeking to enforce upon the workers to-day. I feel that the Government have betrayed everything they have said to the workers, and I look upon them as a Government in regard to which one can hardly expect that there is any possibility of either repentance or redemption.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill.'
§ The House divided: Ayes, 146; Noes, 68.1931
|Division No. 200.]||AYES.||[9.10 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Butcher, Sir John George|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Bethell Sir John Henry||Carr, W. Theodore|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Blrchall, Major J. Dearman||Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chadwick. Sir Robert Burton|
|Atkey, A. R.||Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm., W.)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Breese, Major Charles E.||Churchman, Sir Arthur|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Coats, Sir Stuart|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)|
|Craik Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hurd, Percy A.||Reid, D. D.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jephcott, A. R.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Johnstone, Joseph||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rounded, Colonel R. F.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Shaw, Capt. William T. (Forfar)|
|Evans, Ernest||Kidd, James||Shortt, Rt. Hon E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lloyd, George Butler||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Ford Patrick Johnston||Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Sugden, W. H.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Taylor, J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Gee, Captain Robert||Middlebrook, Sir William||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Gould, James C.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Gregory, Holman||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morris, Richard||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Hamilton. Major C. G. C.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Nail, Major Joseph||Wise, Frederick|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Neal, Arthur||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Nield, sir Herbert||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Hinds, John||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Parker, James||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Pearce, Sir William|
|Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Percy, Charles (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. Gilmour and|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pratt, John William||Mr. McCurdy.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hayday, Arthur||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hayward, Evan||Sexton, James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cairns, John||Irving, Dan||Spencer, George A.|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Casey, T. W.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Clynes. Rt. Hon. John R.||Kennedy, Thomas||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Tootill, Robert|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lunn, William||Waterson, A. E.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Mills, John Edmund||Wignall, James|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Gillis, William||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||O'Grady, James||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Kendall, Athelstan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. Lawson and Mr. J. Davison.|
|Halls. Walter||Robertson, John|
§ Mr. SEXTON
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (3) to insert the wordsProvided that this Sub-section shall not apply in the case of a person who is casually employed by the day or half day.In Committee upstairs I got a promise from the right hon. Gentleman opposite who saw the justice of the case, and said that between Committee and Report he would, if possible, endeavour to find some way out of the difficulty and so make it unnecessary for me to move my Amend- 1932 ment. The right hon. Gentleman has since then informed me that after grave and careful consideration he finds that it is not possible for him to meet my wishes.
§ Mr. SEXTON
That, therefore, is my justification for putting forward my Amendment in manuscript form. The Minister of Labour gives as one of the reasons why he unable to meet me is that he would have endless applications 1933 from other trades. And justly so, if other trades are similarly circumstanced! Why should not other trades have the same advantage that I am asking for the men I represent? I think, however, the right hon. Gentleman exaggerates the position. I shall endeavour to prove to the House that there is no industry in the country or in the whole of the kingdom where the conditions are such as apply to the casual docker employed at the docks of Great Britain. I may have to repeat myself, and for that I apologise, but there are Members present who were not on the Committee, and my excuse and justification for repetition of what I said in Committee is the hope of converting those Members. The right hon. Gentleman called attention to the fact that the six days qualifying period were in the Act of 1911 and were carried on into the Act of 1920, and that he himself reduced the qualifying period in 1920.
Why did the Minister of Labour reduce the qualifying period in 1920 to three days? Because for the first time in the history of Unemployment Insurance over 500,000 of casual labourers were brought within the provisions of National Insurance, and to meet that extraordinary circumstance the qualifying period was reduced from six days to three days. We were not in. We were brought willy-nilly into the Act of 1920. I moved an Amendment on the 1920 Bill, which, if it had been accepted, would have made all these difficulties disappear, and that was that Amendment that the cost of unemployment should be the first charge upon industry. I am going to anticipate some of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. I want to call attention to his statement last week that there is not much cause of complaint, owing to the fact that at the present time 14,000 payments for unemployment to casual labourers have been made in the port of Liverpool. There are 33,000 men working in the docks in Liverpool, and I think I am right in saying that not 40 per cent. of these men are earning half a week's wages. It was hard enough under the existing Act for the casual labourer to qualify, when there was a three days' qualifying period. Although the right hon. Gentleman may use these figures of 14,000 men receiving unemployed benefit in Liverpool, if minute investigation is made into that figure, the bulk of that 14,000 will be found to be men who have 1934 worked three or four days in a week. While the man who has only worked half a day or one day gets nothing, the man who has worked three or four days gets, in addition to what he has already earned, 15s. or 20s. unemployed benefit.
I am pleading for the bottom dog, for the man who can never qualify, for the man who goes out on Monday morning and gets half a day's work. That is the minimum term of employment; our contract is only for half a day, and an employer can dispense with the man after half a day. Such a man gets half a day's work on Monday, and is idle in the afternoon. He is idle on Tuesday, he gets half a day on Wednesday, and is again idle in the afternoon. He is idle all day Thursday and works half of Friday, while he gets nothing on Saturday. Therefore, all he gets for the whole week, and there are thousands of cases like this, is one-and-a-half days' work. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that our jurisdiction does not end with Liverpool. We have members throughout the United Kingdom, not forgetting Ireland. Here are these men, thousands and thousands of them, going round from week to week with three half-days work a week, idle the other four-and-a-half days. They are not even able, under the three days' qualifying period, to qualify, yet they still have to pay 7d. a week.
We have no regular employment, like the textile trades, the miners or the engineers. We do not go into a shop and work for the same employer for the whole of the week. We work for two, three or four employers. The man who works three half days a week may have three different employers, one for each half-day. The unfortunate part of the job is that in some ports, except in Liverpool, the employer has no check upon men who are looking for employment. He has to get out an extra card and pay twice over under the National Health Insurance Act, and I suppose the same conditions will apply to this. What is going to happen under the six days' qualifying period? If a man is only employed for the first half of the week that disqualifies him, although he has got to pay the 7d. and the employer has to pay the 8d. Between them the employer and the workman are paying 1s. 3d. for a man who only works half a day during the week. That money is paid to the Government, but neither employer or workman gets any benefit or satisfaction out of it.
1935 The right hon. Gentleman told us, but I could not quite follow his logic, that a man may work one day and be idle on the other five and qualify. How can that be? He also told us that three days this week and three days next week would qualify, although there were two periods of unemployment between them. Therefore if a man works two days one week and goes into the following week and is employed two days, and in the week following two days, that makes six days in three weeks and counts as continuous employment. Is that so? That is not the kind of man for whom I am fighting. The man for whom I am fighting is the one who gets half a day's work and not the man who gets three days a week. The man who gets three days this week and three days next week, at the present rate of wages, which we hope to retain, gets 16s. for each day. That is over £2. Yet, on the top of that, the qualifying period of six days will give him unemployment benefit to the amount of £2 in addition, while the man who is earning 8s. a week is absolutely disqualified. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that it is no use talking to these men about index figures and borrowing powers. Talking about a limitation to your borrowing powers, you are not borrowing it from us; you are pinching it from us. It is garrotting by Act of Parliament, simply and purely. Here you have a man who contributes 7d. who only works half a day, and who earns 8s. You. say to that man, "You are paying this 7d. to give the fellow who gets three days' work unemployment benefit on the top of his three days, while you are out of work five days and you get nothing." Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Attorney-General to devise some scheme whereby this gross injustice can be remedied and the bottom dog relieved.
Coming back to the 14,000 men in Liverpool—again I am not dealing with Liverpool as one port; I am dealing with all the ports. The date given upstairs was 3rd June. I suppose they can give later dates, but it does not matter so much about the dates. The fact is that in the abnormal state of unemployment to-day it is possible there may be 14,000 applications, even in Liverpool. Out of those 14,000 applications I would like to know how many days the applicants worked, and how many applicants were included 1936 who only worked one day or one and a half days a week. Those are the men for whom I am appealing, and it is their case that I am putting. The right hon. Gentleman bases his extension of the qualifying time from three days to six on the fact that he is going to save £2,500,000.
§ Mr. SEXTON
That confession in itself is an admission that he has taken £2,500,000 from the very men for whom I am pleading. That is an admission that he has taken this money from the very men I have pleaded for and it is like taking the breeks off a Highlander. These men have to carry all the burden in order that the right hon. Gentleman may save £2,500,000. There is another very regrettable feature about this matter. I happened to take a long journey by road the other day and I saw some of the men on tramp. They came down to Brighton and I saw them on my way back resting in the ditches and the hedges overlooked by policemen. That is where your extension of the six days' period is driving these men. You are making them chronic tramps. The iron is entering their souls as it has done many of our souls in days gone by. This continual breaking of promises and holding out of hopes that can never be realised is doing more to create unrest and Bolshevism than all the agents of Lenin and Trotsky ever created.
I know what I am talking about. The law of this country says that if you sleep in a ditch you are a trespasser; if you get over the hedge and sleep on a haystack you are a vagabond and a trespasser; if you pull up a turnip in a field you are a vagabond, a trespasser, and a thief. The result of this is that these men have to go on tramping until they come to the nearest casual ward, where they are set a task in return for their food and shelter, which prevents them getting away next day in time to do a job elsewhere, and they go on in this way until they become useless members of society. We were doing something to lift these men slowly out of this state of things by a grant of £1 a week, but you are now driving them back again deeper into the mire than ever they were before.
I do not subscribe to the idea that the right hon. Gentleman has no deliberate intention of doing what he can. He would 1937 do more if he could to relieve the situation. We hear him talking about where the money is to come from, and how often have we heard that cry in this House? Whenever anything affecting the poorer classes is raised in this House the cry is, "Where is the money to come from?" You can find £28,000,000 to provide homes for the Jews in Mesopotamia, but you cannot find £10,000,000 to give these poor men the benefit to which they subscribed. You cannot give £l a week to these men. The Jews of Palestine may be very decent people, and I am not going to decry them or run them down, but I would remind hon. Members that charity begins at home.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
Hon. Members opposite have been calling for a reply from the Government, and I am very glad to make a reply to this Amendment. I do not think anyone who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) could feel anything but sympathetic towards the eloquent appeal which he made. The hon. Member spoke for the under dog, and he spoke with that eloquence which usually distinguishes his appeals to this House. I do, however, put it to him that the case he sketched goes rather beyond the facts. My right hon. Friend went into the question of continuity and the bridging over, and all the technicalities involved.
I should like to say that there really is no question of fraud, or anything of that sort, in extending the Clauses of the Act of Parliament and what they mean. I do not want to go into those technicalities, because they have been sufficiently explained as to the three days on and three days off, and so on. Admittedly there are some hard cases. The hon. Member for St. Helens suggested in Committee upstairs that the dockers were very badly treated in the matter, and that probably not 5 per cent of them, even under the existing waiting period of three days, would qualify for benefit. I have had the figures looked up as to the number of dockers who were able to qualify during the period from 8th November, 1920, to the 10th June, 1921, and the amount of benefit they have received. These men and their employers paid during that peiod £16,050 to the fund, and during that time these unemployed Liverpool dockers for whom my hon. Friend speaks drew out of the fund 1938 in benefits no less that £141,865. That is to say, that they derived this considerable amount of benefit in spite of the case made out by the hon. Member, that the scheme of the Act was inapplicable to their particular case.
§ Mr. SEXTON
That does not affect the case of the men I have mentioned. I do not dispute that some who work two or three days get the benefit. My point is that the men who did not do that work are disqualified.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
The hon. Member's argument was that in the case of the dockers there was a very large proportion of people who did not qualify for benefit. I have given the figures of the dockers' contribution for the period of the benefit they received, but let us carry the case a step further. That has been compared with the amount received by other unions during the same period. I can get the exact details if hon. Members desire.
§ Mr. SPENCER
But the only figures really relevant are those which will show to what extent benefit would have been paid if the waiting period had been six days instead of three.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I am afraid I must take my argument step by step. My first point is that comparisons have been taken, and on the average it would seem that the Dockers' Union has done as well out of the fund as any other union. I am very glad that they have been able to make the fund so available for their period of unemployment. My hon. Friend has raised the point as to what would have been the effect if the waiting period had been six days instead of three. It is a very good point, and my answer at once is that undoubtedly the difficulties would have been greater, but the main point remains substantially good, namely, that the proportion of the benefit which the dockers would have derived from the fund would have been very much the same as in the case of other unions, and I venture to think that the figures I have suggested bear that out. A proposal was made by my right hon. Friend during the Committee stage of the Bill—it was not a promise—that we should go into the case very carefully and consider whether a plan could be outlined which would meet the case of the dockers without bringing in a very large 1939 number of casual labourers for whom really it would be impossible to make a businesslike arrangement. The matter has been very carefully gone into, and I regret to say it has proved impossible to frame any form of words or to detail any such plan. I very much regret that that is the answer which I must give on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My hon. Friend has given to the House two reasons for not accepting the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton). One reason is that there are practical difficulties which it is said would arise if dockworkers were to be treated as a favoured class, and that others would, as a result, claim to come in and share the benefit. My answer to that is that there are no difficulties of an administrative character relating to the machinery under which this Act will be worked, which cannot be overcome by some instructions to the officials in the various centres to meet whatever decision this House may come to. My hon. Friend has for this purpose I believe a very large and efficient body of servants in different parts of the country, and it is precisely in centres like Liverpool, where the officials are more in personal touch with the crowds of unemployed than in some other parts of the country, that there is a relationship between them which enables them to meet exceptional cases. That fact goes a long way towards justifying the belief that if the Government came to a decision favourable to our views on this matter the practical difficulties could be made to disappear under instructions that could be sent out.
I put a point to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour which I think has not been sufficiently dealt with, and that is that this class of workers is above all other classes an exceptionally deserving class with regard to any benefits that can be given to them. The casual worker is the worst sufferer from unemployment. He not only has to endure the ills resulting from unemployment, but he lives in a state of endless uncertainty. He must compete against his fellow workmen in order to get work. It is not his portion ever to have a regular job. He moves not only from place to place and from dock to dock, but from employer to employer. Much has been done to regu- 1940 larise his work, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens has himself made a very valuable contribution and rendered great service in the direction of better regularising the employment of these men and diminishing the personal suffering which many of them feel. Therefore such an appeal as this comes very appropriately from one who, in his work outside this House, has done a great deal, not merely for individual workmen, but for efficient working conditions in that particular occupation. I feel sure that the employers themselves would be the first to admit that my hon. Friend has done a great deal in that direction, yet in spite of all he has done he still finds himself in the position of having to face men who were his fellow workers in earlier days and who are still subject to these terrible conditions of casual employment. These men constitute a most deserving class. They must pay their contributions, and the fact that they have had, owing to the exceptional circumstances of the last 18 months, to draw rather heavily on the fund goes far to justify the case made out by my hon. Friend. The Parliamentary Secretary gave some figures in which he showed the total sum they had drawn in benefit as compared with what they had paid into the fund. I think his figures did not include the contribution to the fund either of the employers or of the State. I understood that, roughly speaking, the dockers themselves had paid £16,000.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I intended to make it quite clear that the amount stated included the contributions from both the dockers and their employers.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I accept that correction, of course. The point I was going to put was that the difference between what in their working period they have been able to pay and what in their condition of compulsory idleness they have been compelled to receive only emphasises the severity of the hardships entailed on this deserving class of men. The Bill generally proceeds on the lines of reducing the benefit. The 20s. benefit is to be dropped to 15s. and other levels are to be decreased all round. 1941 It is bad enough to drop the pay but there is no justification for stopping it altogether. Yet the effect of this change will be to deprive a certain section of the men altogether of any opportunity whatever of obtaining the benefit. Surely this is a class which is deserving of exceptional favour, if favours are to be given, but, instead of being treated according to their circumstances and their needs, they are being specially penalised and deprived of their benefit because of the severity of the hardships which they have to endure. I would ask even now that their case should not be turned down, with such an answer as we have so far received. I doubt whether my right hon. Friend can have fully considered the case, not merely in Liverpool but in many of the other ports throughout the country. We must think of these men's unemployment in terms of their experience. It is not they who are to blame; it is the fact that the industry has not been adapted to the needs and demands of those who want to work regularly; and the fact that that is their fate ought not, surely, to put them in the position of being totally deprived of the benefit for which they are compelled to pay. This class, suffering exceptional hardships, has an exceptional appeal, which I trust will not be so completely repelled as so far it has been, because there is still a little time in which to consider the realities of the hardships from which they suffer.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I am afraid that there is a good deal too much discussion centreing upon one port, as if all the dockers who existed were in Liverpool. There are other ports besides Liverpool, and the same conditions exist there, or, perhaps, in a more aggravated form. The Parliamentary Secretary may hear something about a place called Salford, on the Manchester Ship Canal, and he may come in contact with a large number of his own constituents who are being hard hit by this Clause. I do not care so much about this new Amendment going in; I should have preferred to speak in support of retaining the original Clause and the three days. It was simpler and easier, and much preferable to this. The other, however, was thrown out, and this is a sort of last effort to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. Of course, all the dock workers have not yet come under the scheme, because in Lord Shaw's Report there was a definite 1942 recommendation as to a maintenance scheme, so that every port authority or dock authority should create a scheme, under which certain payments were to be made, and that they should out of that fund maintain their own unemployed. But that has never developed on the lines expected, and consequently there has been a large number of dock workers throughout the country who have never been included, but who will be, because it seems to me that, unfortunately, Lord Shaw's recommendation is not going to be developed into anything substantial, and they will be bound to come under the national insurance scheme.
It is no use comparing this Bill with the old Act. The dock workers were not included in Part II of the National Health Insurance Act, and it is only quite recently that they have been brought in. Their being brought in was not due to the desire of the men or to any demand on the part their organisation. The Government itself said, "You have to come in." The Clause included all dock, wharf and riverside workers. I am certain that, if it had been a voluntary scheme even then, not a man would have joined it. As it is, no one is left who will not curse the scheme, because it is the most brutal and villainous Clause that was ever introduced into an Act of Parliament. I am prepared to say, without fear of contradiction, that a large proportion of these men whom I have in mind will be compelled to pay from January to December, and will never be able to qualify for benefit under any circumstances. It may be said that that is an extreme statement, but it is true, because this Clause is very definite. They must have been idle for one week, in substitution for the period of three days, before they can qualify These casual labourers, unless it be in the seasonal trade during a few months of the year when trade is normal, never work under the conditions laid down in this Bill. The majority work for a day now and again—perhaps one day a week, or two days a week. You can imagine men being idle all this week—which is no unusual case—and probably next week getting one day's or two days' work in that week. The period of waiting disqualifies them this week. Next week their contribution is deducted out of their pay, but they are disqualified for benefit in that week, and if they are idle again 1943 for the remainder of the week they are still disqualified, because, in order to qualify, they must be idle for a complete week. And so it goes on all through the year.
I do not understand what is said about a day in and a day out, and three days at the end of one week and three days at the beginning of another week. If we attempted to argue in that way with the Department, they would have some strong words to say to us. The Act says definitely that a man, in order to qualify, must have been out of employment for one week, instead of for three days as previously. If I understand anything at all about the English language, it means a working week from Monday morning till finishing time on Saturday. It either means that or nothing at all. If there is any other explanation, for goodness sake put it into the Bill and let us know what it is. If it is broken time—portions of a week—say so. The Bill says there shall be one complete week of unemployment to qualify for benefit. That, as applied to the hundreds of thousands of men employed in our docks, means compulsory contributions even if they only work for one or two hours in any one week. When it comes to the 7d., you will sneak the last 7d. out of them. By law the employer is compelled to deduct that 7d. and hand it over, and the man is deprived of any fragment of benefit. I am not putting any exaggerated case. If anyone goes down to those docks next week they will know it as well as I know it. There are hundreds of men there this week out of employment who do not qualify under the three-day period. The six-day basis will cut the whole lot out. It is the most abominable, cruel system I have ever heard of. Give them an option as to whether they are to be insured under the Act, and see how many will accept it. As it stands to-day, there will not be one man of the class known as casual workers, wherever he may be employed, who will accept terms like that. If this scheme were put forward by a public company, I doubt whether they would not all be arrested for fraud—for extorting money under false pretences by compelling people to pay money for which no benefit can be given. This matter has not been given the thought it deserves, the thought it is entitled to, because I cannot conceive of anybody being so brutally callous as to 1944 say to a man, "You have got to be in the scheme: you have got to pay; but we are hedging it round in such a way that we will stop you having any benefit anyway." If you are going to put in this one-week condition, then you ought to give these men the option of saying whether they want to be included in the Act or not, or accept the Amendment. They are nearly all employed from day to day. They are employed from day to day on the Manchester Ship Canal, and a very large proportion are employed in London on that system, and elsewhere. Do not compel these men to do what you would not do yourselves. Do not deprive them of benefit and compel them to pay contributions. I hope you will accept the Clause as presented. Wipe out this blot upon English justice, because that is what it is—a bad, dirty blot upon men who are compelled by Act of Parliament to pay into a scheme out of which all benefit is to be taken away.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I have been wondering why the qualifying period has been raised from three days to six. I have some experience amongst the dockers on the Manchester Ship Canal. A good many of these men are ex-service men, and I have had deputation after deputation coming to me to put their case and to say how unfairly this Act, even when it was a three-days' qualifying period, operated in regard to their case. We know that the docker has to go down to the dock gates on Monday morning. He signs on, but has to hang about the whole day, and perhaps gets no work at all. He goes down on the Tuesday, and again signs on, and perhaps gets half-a-day's work. On the Wednesday he goes down, signs on, and gets a whole day's work. The same thing follows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but he gets no work at all, and so he does not qualify for the out-of-work pay, and only receives a pittance which it is absolutely impossible for his wife and children and himself to exist upon. I cannot understand why the limit of three days has been raised to six except for one reason, I suppose it has been done in order to cut down expense. I am just as much against waste as any hon. or right hon. Member of this House, but I have said more than once that it is not the right thing to try and cut down expenditure by placing the burden on the shoulders of those least able to bear it. I trust my right hon. 1945 Friend the Minister of Labour will see his way to accept this Amendment. It will cost very little more money. It will help a class of men who are deserving men, very hard workers, who have only their labour to depend upon from day to day. If my right hon. Friend cannot see his way to accept it, I shall be compelled very reluctantly to vote against the Government.
Mr. J. JONES
As representing one of the constituencies that are very hard hit by the proposition contained in the Bill, I would like to say a few words in support of the case that has been already put up in favour of standing by the original proposition of the Act of 1920. We had a very great fight inside the trade unions to get our members to agree to National Insurance, because the trade unions never accepted this method of dealing with unemployment, but finally we were compelled to accept it as the result of public opinion. As I understand insurance, and of course I am not an expert on the subject, the good lives pay for the bad, but now we have reversed the situation, and the bad lives pay for the good. Now the casual labourer is practically going to be cut out of the Bill in order that it may be made financially successful. Let me point out it concerns not merely people who have to show up every day at the docks. Right along the River Thames there is a large number of men who have to come down to the factories every morning on the off-chance of a day's work. They are just as casual as dock labourers, and they have to show themselves outside the factory gates every morning on the chance of getting a day's employment. Their employment is intermittent, and as a consequence of that fact they may find themselves disfranchised, and they do find themselves disfranchised even under the three days' scheme. Thousands of the members of my own union find themselves always out of benefit. Last Saturday afternoon we had a conference of the members of our union in the London district to consider this very Bill, and when the proposition was laid before them that the three days was going to be extended to six days, we had a terrible uproar, and they said they would no longer continue to subscribe to the scheme, they would refuse to pay, simply because they found the difficulties in the existing scheme bad enough, but under 1946 the six days these were going to be insuperable. I venture to suggest that if hon. Members were themselves casual labourers, having to appear outside the factory or dock gate morning after morning, they would not be so inclined to go into the Lobby and support the proposals contained herein. What are you going to save; £2,200,000? [HON. MEMBERS: "For everybody!"] Less than it cost to open the Houses of Parliament. Casual labour is not decreasing, it is increasing. As unemployment grows, casual labour becomes more permanent. At our docks and factories to-day there are men and women turning up on the off-chance of getting a day's work, and as soon as they get an odd day's work they become, for the time being, disqualified to receive unemployment pay. When this Act becomes law they will find themselves in a more difficult situation than ever. For the sum of £2,200,000 that the right hon. Gentleman thinks he is going to save, is it worth while to put this burden on the shoulders of those least able to bear it? We have to ask our members to pay increased contributions to the' unions to meet this situation. In addition to the increased contributions, they have to pay under the National Insurance Act, provided they get employment, they will also have to pay, to meet the new situation, increased contributions to their unions. How can we ask them to meet the situation if they are going to find themselves almost perpetually debarred from receiving benefit? Therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman will at least be prepared to meet us on this point of the casual labourer, the man who has the least chance of benefiting, the man who is always liable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I have been one myself, and I can speak with feeling. Weighing up the difficulties of the situation, the finances of it may be very strong from the standpoint of those in authority, but you are going to lose a lot more than £2,000,000. You have a reserve fund already. It is not a very big amount, but surely you can draw upon the possibilities of England's future, though it is no good drawing upon the dock labourer's pocket. It is no use trying to put the burden more heavily on the shoulders of the casual worker. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to meet us. 1947 It means that those who are most liable to unemployment are going to pay most and get least, and that is not fair play. Insurance ought really to mean that the burden ought to be placed in fair proportions, and those who own the biggest risks ought to have the best advantage.
§ Mr. JAMES WILSON
In supporting this Amendment, I want to take the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall), that this is not a question affecting the dockers employed at Liverpool, although with that astute adroitness which appears to be the prime qualification for a seat on the Government Bench, I noticed that the hon. Gentleman tried to switch the Debate round to a question that merely affected the dockers at Liverpool. This proposal of the Government will affect untold thousands of men in other walks of life than dockers. Men in the; railway service are going to be particularly influenced by this proposal. In many departments of the railway service those who are permanently employed are excluded from the scope of the Act altogether. They are neither contributors nor do they receive benefit. But all the men who are known to be casual employés are compelled under the Act to subscribe, and will be compelled under this new proposal to go without any benefit. The proposal now made by the Government falsifies all the ideals, all the high motives that inspired the Government and the House at that time to carry this Unemployment Insurance Act. The Parliamentary Secretary put it to us that if there was any section of the community who had no cause to complain at all about the administration of the Act certainly it was the dockers, because, according to his figures, they appeared to have had more in one year, or in a number of years, than they and the employers had paid in contributions. Who were the dockers at Liverpool or elsewhere who got benefit under the Act in excess of what they contributed? The people who got the benefits under the old regime were the people who are going to get the benefits under the present proposals. The people for whom we are appealing are the people who are going to continue to contribute week by week, at least once, and it can be proved that 1948 many will have contributed twice in one week, and although they will receive no benefit they will have to pay increased contribution. As the Government's proposals exclude the casual labourer from deriving any benefit from the Act, surely the fair and honest thing to do, if there is any honest conception in the minds of those who qualify to sit on the Government Bench, would be to say to the casual labourers: "We are now promoting legislation which will permanently and definitely exclude you from receiving any benefit, therefore, the honest thing for us to do will be to exclude you from making contributions under the Act." Are the Government prepared to face that alternative? If any insurance company issued a prospectus and allowed the Minister of Labour or the Parliamentary Secretary to become contributors and then proceeded to amend the prospectus during the period when the contributions were being paid, my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite would be the first people to take that insurance company before a court of law for issuing a false prospectus. That is precisely what the Government are proposing to do with regard to the casual labourer by this Measure.
The ideals and the spirit out of which the unemployment insurance originally sprung was that workmen, employers, and the Government should unite in order to form an unemployment fund so that unemployment might be lifted from the shoulders upon which it bore most heavily in the past. If that was the fundamental reason for the Act, what justification is there for the Government turning round and so amending the Act that the people who are the least entitled to benefit and who are the least qualified to benefit are going to get the most, while the people who are earning the least-wages and paying, in some cases, most contributions are going to get no benefit out of the Act? If I were a casual labourer—and I hope this will reach the ears of the casual labourers—I would see the Government in Heaven or anywhere else before I would pay into an insurance fund out of which I should get no benefit. The casual labourers would be worse than mad if they continued to pay into the fund at the dictation of the Government or anybody else, for they would be paying into a fraudulent fund for a supposed benefit which they know they will never 1949 receive. The case made by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) for the men who are definitely excluded from receiving any benefit is entitled to further consideration before the Govern-
§ ment by their block vote force a Measure like this through the Chamber.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 83; Noes, 156.1951
|Division No. 201.]||AYES.||[10.27 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Hayward, Evan||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Robertson, John|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hogge, James Myles||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Irving, Dan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sexton, James|
|Cairns, John||Johnstone, Joseph||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sltch, Charles H.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Casey, T. W.||Kennedy, Thomas||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Spencer, George A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kenyon, Barnet||Spoor, B. G.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kiley, James Daniel||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Lawson, John James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lunn, William||Tootill, Robert|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Wignall, James|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Mills, John Edmund||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Gillis, William||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Gould, James C.||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westncughton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||O'Grady, James|
|Halls, Walter||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Mr. Neil Maclean and Mr. T.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Griffiths.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lorden, John William|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Fell, Sir Arthur||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Macleod, J. Mackintosh|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Forestier-Walker, L.||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Gee, Captain Robert||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Gretton, Colonel John||Morris, Richard|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morrison, Hugh|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Murray, William (Dumfries)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Neal, Arthur|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hinds, John||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Parker, James|
|churchman, sir Arthur||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Pearce, Sir William|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hopkins, John W. W.||Phllips, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hurd, Percy A.||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pratt, John William|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Jephcott, A. R.||Reid, D. D.|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Renwick, Sir George|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Kidd, James||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Evans, Ernest||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)||Wise, Frederick|
|Shaw, Capt. William T. (Fortar)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Townley, Maximilian G.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sugden, W. H.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Taylor, J.||Winterton, Earl||Dudley Ward.|
Question put, and agreed to.