§ (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,—
§ The expression "special periods" means the following two periods, that is to say, the period from the day on which this Act comes into operation to the thirty-first day of October nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and the period from the first day of November nineteen hundred and twenty-one to the second day of July nineteen hundred and twenty-two, the days above mentioned being in all cases inclusive:
§ The expression "local employment committee "means any local committee to which questions may be referred under Sub-section (5) of Section thirteen of the principal Act.
§ (3) Save as in this Act otherwise expressly provided, nothing therein contained shall operate so as to deprive any person of, or to prevent any person from receiving, any unemployment benefit which he would have been entitled to receive if this Act had not passed.
§ (5) This Act shall come into operation on the Thursday next after the passing thereof, and the provisions of this Act providing for increases in the rates of unemployment benefit and in the rates of contribution shall cease to have effect on the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-four.
§ Lords Amendments:
§ In Sub-section (1), leave out the words, "thirty-first day of October," and insert "second day of November";
§ Leave out the word "first" ["first day of"] and insert "third";
At the end of Sub-section (1) insert a new Sub-section—
(2) In the application of this Act to Ireland references to a court of referees shall be substituted for references to a local employment committee.
At end of Sub-section (3) insert
or so as to render it necessary for the Minister at any time before the third day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, to require any association to make for the purposes of proviso (a) to Sub-section (1) of Section seventeen of the principal Act any greater or further provision for un-
employment benefit than would have been required to be made for those purposes if this Act had not passed.
§ Agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "Thursday next after the passing thereof," and insert, "third day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-one."
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER
This Amendment varies the conditions in the other direction. I draw attention to it as a privilege Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "thirtieth day of June," and insert "sixth day of July."
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I beg to move as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment to leave out the word "sixth" and to insert instead thereof the word "first."
§ Amendment to the Lords Amendment agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ In Sub-section (5), leave out the words "twenty-four" ["nineteen hundred and twenty-four"] and insert "twenty-three."
Mr. T. THOMSON
It is unfortunate that this Act should be curtailed in its benefits to the extent of even one year. The right hon. Gentleman has said that before the period elapses no doubt the whole question will be reconsidered, but, surely, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and to give away something which is a certainty for something which may not materialise is a mistake. I regret that the Government should have sought to agree with the Lords on this point. I do not know whether it is a sop to them that, having rejected three material Amendments, they are going to accept one which is of some considerable substance. It is very 2095 unfortunate and quite unnecessary, because the Act provides that if the actuarial figures require adjusting one way or the other, the Minister has power either to reduce the benefit or to increase the contributions. He has the power to meet any contingencies that may arise; therefore, it is most unfortunate that he should agree to the curtailing of the effect of this Act, even by one year. One knows from experience that Acts have been repealed before the Government have had time to bring in measures to take their place. I refer particularly to the Bill, which was passed last year, taking out of the hands of the local insurance committee the power of dealing with tuberculosis. We have not yet before us, and it is questionable whether we shall find any time for it, a measure for replacing that Act which has been repealed. Having before us that fact of the repeal of an Act which has a vital effect on the health of the country, it is unfortunate that now we should seek to limit the power of the present Act unnecessarily.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The hon. Member made the remark that by way of a sop to those in another place we have done something to limit the benefit provided by this Act. It is nothing of the kind. The emergency period stands. Under the Bill as it stood we were compelled to review matters at the end of 1924; but by this Amendment we shall be compelled to have
|MINOR AMENDMENTS OF PRINCIPAL ACT.|
|Enactment to be Amended.||Nature of Amendment.|
|First Schedule||…||…||…||In paragraph (d) of Part II for the words from "certifies that" to the end of the paragraph there shall be substituted the words "the employment is, in his opinion, having regard to the normal practice of the employer, permanent in character, that the employed person has completed three years' service in the employment, and that the other circumstances of the employment make it unnecessary that he should be insured under this Act," and the following words shall be added at the end of the paragraph:—|
§ Lords Amendment:
§ At the beginning of the Schedule insert a new paragraph:
|"Section 7||…||…||…||For the words 'suitable employment' in paragraph (iii) of Sub-section (1) there shall be substituted the words 'employment on reasonable terms for which he is physically and otherwise fit'."|
§ the review at the end of 1923. In all probability when we get that far we shall, having looked round and considered the benefits and the contributions which are now based on more or less speculation, find ourselves compelled to amend the scheme. We are giving my hon. Friend by this Amendment the opportunity of indulging in something better in the way of an Insurance Act than the present one.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I do not share the fears of my hon. Friend (Mr. Thomson) regarding the effect of the Amendment, and as a matter of choice I should prefer that the shorter date be in the Bill. It will give us an earlier opportunity of reviewing the circumstances and conditions which at the moment we cannot estimate. If the period was left as the end of 1924 it would mean that a Government might be unwilling to return to this topic until the Act had expired, and that would deprive us of an opportunity of reviewing this problem in the light of circumstances which may develop in the course of the next 12 or 18 months. From the standpoint of the usefulness of the Bill this Amendment is quite harmless, but the balance of advantage so far as the workers are concerned lies in the acceptance of the Lords Amendment.
After what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, I hope the Government will reconsider its decision.
§ Question put, and agreed to.2097
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
I fear it is quite useless, although it is one's duty, to endeavour to put considerations before the House which may be of value. This particular Amendment of the Lords will have the effect of diminishing the period during which unemployment is rife. The whole point of the Amendment is that if a man has worked at a certain trade or branch of a trade, and he finds himself unable to get employment in that particular branch of his trade he shall be forced to accept a position in some other analogous or suitable branch of trade before he is allowed to come on the unemployed benefit. I am quite aware that the Amendment completely cuts across the whole policy of trade unions of the present day. That is the policy of limiting the form of work which any given man may take up. That policy is the basis of the dispute on demarcation which are giving rise to a very great amount of unemployment. I speak from some experience, for only last week I was building a cottage for myself, and I employed a bricklayer to do certain work on the outside of the house which the Plasterers' Union said was their work, and the plasterers came out on strike. This Amendment of the Lords will prevent a vast amount of unemployment which is due to demarcation disputes, and the Government's policy in objecting to the Amendment is simply a policy of helping these demarcation disputes to continue. It is the policy of subsidising by the taxpayers' money these absurd demarcation disputes. It is impossible to get consideration of these matters in the way that they deserve. When we have the Minister of Labour informing us quite bluntly that he adopts all these fallacies for which trade unions and the Labour party are notorious, it is quite hopeless for anyone who has studied the subject to some extent and who has had some practical experience to do anything in this House to relieve the present state of unemployment.
I hope that the Government will agree to the Lords Amendment. The Minister of Labour has drawn our attention to the case of a 2098 watchmaker who was out of employment in his trade and was offered employment as hotel porter.
Who was offered employment as a shipyard labourer. The right hon. Gentleman said it would be unreasonable to suggest that that was suitable employment for him. An hon. Member has pointed out that this is a most critical time in our industrial history. The Great War was a most critical time in our national history. In the Great War watchmakers and other people took jobs in the trenches which they did not think was suitable employment, for which they were physically fit. I do not believe that the average workman in the country to-day would approve of having this Act turned into a great system of doles for unemployed, and if he was told, "Here is a watchmaker who can have a job as a shipyard labourer; he is a perfectly fit and strong man," the ordinary British workman would say, "He—well ought to go."
This Amendment brings out the vexed question of the refusal to entertain an offer of domestic service. The principal Act, Section 7, Sub-section 1, paragraph iii, says that a woman can get unemployment benefit if she is capable of and available for work, but unable to obtain suitable employment. Imagine a girl employed in a factory, say at 30s. a week, living at home, and out of her salary giving 15s. a week to the home benefit. She falls out of work and gets 15s. a week unemployment benefit. That is roughly what she contributes to the home budget. She goes to the employment exchange and is offered a situation as domestic servant at £30 a year, all found, and refuses that offer. To my mind she would be right under the principal Act and under the present Bill, as apparently she has no particular aptitude for or knowledge of domestic service. She has been in a factory and does not like to become a maid of all work, a drudge in a small household. If that girl can earn 2s. 6d. a day for five days in the week, in some way or other, she is, with her 16s. a week, as well off as when she was earning her 30s. in the factory, and I do not suppose that it is 2099 very difficult to earn 2s. 6d. a day if a girl looks about her. This is a great temptation for a girl not to take domestic service. She bases her claim on the insurance officer, who says, "In my opinion domestic service is not a suitable employment for you. Therefore until I can place you in some sort of factory work I consider you have the right to draw your unemployment benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of the country."
I suggest that that is unfair. I can see through the spectacles of the girl herself. She does not want to go into domestic service, but a great many householders want domestic servants, and if you accept the Lords Amendment the effect would be that she would have to go. How is it to be decided? I would suggest that the local Unemployment Committee ought to consist of three women, one of the working class, one who runs a household, and the third an impartial lady. Before all three cases of this sort shall come. If they decide that this girl is to take service, and that the person wishing to employ her would be likely to make a kind mistress, then these women ought to have authority to turn this girl into domestic service. There is not a single Member on these benches who has not had letters from constituents as to the scandal of women wanting domestic servants who cannot get them. All these unemployed women are drawing unemployment pay, and the householders, already overburdened, have been made to pay their share. I would get over the difficulty by adopting the Lords Amendment and then by having such a committee as I suggest.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
I am surprised that my right hon. Friend did not devote more attention to this Amendment than he appeared to do. While I do not associate myself with every phrase which was used by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, I think that there is more substance in what he said than some hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to think. I press this point on the ground of principle. The hon. Gentleman quoted the case of domestic servants. He had in mind, no doubt, that there has been a shortage of domestic servants, a demand for them, and at the same time a large measure of unemployment among the classes who might normally find a certain number of 2100 recruits for that service. The present position is that, although those facts are unchallenged, you are yet to be considered liable to pay unemployment benefit to girls or women because you do not happen to be able to fit them in to their particular jobs while there is yet a large number of vacancies for them. They must have whatever job they fancy. The logical result of that principle would be that you would be bound to pay unemployment benefit to everybody who cannot get exactly the work he wants. If that be so, you are sanctioning a serious principle. I should have thought that the object which we ought to have before us in this matter should be, as far as we can, to hold the scale evenly between the workpeople concerned and the taxpayer who has to find the money. I am not sure that we are doing this. People cannot live indefinitely by taking in each other's washing. It is uneconomic and brings its own downfall. I am not such an expert as to say that the suggestion of the House of Lords is the right one. All I am observing is that, if the words in the Bill lead logically to the principle which I have enunciated, they lead us very much too far. If my right hon. Friend does not feel able to accept the words of the House of Lords, he should endeavour to suggest other words to meet a point that requires to be met.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have dealt with the matter already, but I think that I had better respond to the invitation of my hon. Friend and refer to it again. Section 7 of the main Act says that the personmust be capable of and available for work, but unable to obtain suitable employment.Then it is amended this way, that the personis capable of and available for work, but unable to obtain employment on reasonable terms for which he is physically and otherwise fit,those latter words taking the place of "suitable employment." My objection is as to the interpretation of the words "reasonable terms." That really raises the question which has been already discussed of the wages offered. As I have pointed out, the culmination of confusion of thought is, what is meant by "suitable employment"? The suitability is broadly based upon whether or not the work is the sort of work which the man or woman has been doing and is accustomed to doing and 2101 would be likely to return to when once again he gets into employment, but if there is any question of suitability, if a person refuses work on the ground that it is not suitable, it is the duty of the manager of the Exchange, if the appliciant is in his opinion wrong in refusng the work on the ground of suitability, to refuse payment and to refer the matter to the insurance officer and afterwards it can be referred if necessary to the Court of Referees. That is the broad practice which has been followed and it is in the main sound. If these words were put in, what is going to follow? I said earlier that you can say to a watchmaker, "Come, take this job as a shipyard labourer." I stand by that. In the end the unfortunate watchmaker may have to go to work as a shipyard labourer. If you say, "If you refuse work as a shipyard labourer you are forfeiting your benefit," and the man has to take the shipyard work, what sort of a watch and clock maker will he be afterwards?
§ Mr. E. WOOD
What sort of a watchmaker is he likely to be if he remains in idleness for a long period?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
He cannot help his idleness. He is going to be a better watchmaker to the extent of £1 a week insurance benefit. I have here a summary of Umpires' decisions. It is a series of findings on "Suitability," and I propose to call the attention to them of all those who have to administer this Act. They show the specific conditions under which persons are eligible for benefit and the specific conditions under which they will forfeit benefit if they improperly refuse employment. This is one of the decisions:As a general rule applicants with special skill and experience who have no prospect of re-engagement in their normal occupation should be offered appropriate alternative work, if available, after the lapse of not more than four weeks.I think that that is sound common sense—An applicant without special skill and experience is not entitled to any period of grace in which to look for the class of work he would prefer. He must accept any appropriate vacancy for which he is reasonably well qualified.Here is a decision bearing on an illustration already given—A girl who is suitable for resident domestic service is not entitled to remain indefinitely on donation because she is registered for daily work. She must be offered a resident job, and, if the offer is declined, the 2102 claim should be referred to the Court of Referees, who will, of course, take any special circumstances into account.Those decisions bear very closely on the point we are discussing. I propose, when this Bill becomes law, to issue specific regulations, or instructions, to the local Employment Committees which we are bringing into this Bill under Section 3. They will show the conditions under which people will be eligible for benefit, under which they can refuse work and still be eligible for benefit, and the machinery under which they can appeal.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The manager of the Exchange may say, "I am doubtful whether you should refuse." He will refer the case to the Insurance Officer and suspend payment in any case of doubt, or in a case where a person improperly declines work. The Insurance Officer could confirm the suspension and withhold payment of benefit, or he could say, "I think benefit ought to be paid." It would be open to the applicant to make application to the Court of Referees. Finally there will be an appeal to the Umpire.
§ Mr. FRANCE
I assume that Members in all sections of the House are anxious that under this scheme there is no abuse of the Act, no power given to secure some other and different purpose from that which we have in view. Where does the power rest with regard to the decision of "suitability"? The right hon. Gentleman gave us an example. The manager is to decide the point of suitability, but under certain varying conditions, or according as the Act is amended, the Committee is to be brought in. Does the Committee come in and deal with cases except under appeal or only when an appeal is made? Does the first decision come from the manager?
§ Mr. FRANCE
Then there may be different decisions given throughout the country according to the opinions of the various managers?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That is exactly why these decisions are being issued so that there may be a general uniformity.
§ Mr. FRANCE
These decisions are to be published to give the opinions of certain qualified Umpires in order to help others in arriving at a decision, but they are in no way bound to accept these decisions?
§ Mr. FRANCE
We have had the illustration of the watchmaker who is asked to take up heavy manual work in a shipyard, and the principal reason given why that work would not be suitable was that the watchmaker would not be physically fit to undertake it and probably would not be physically fit, in another sense, to return to his own work after having undertaken it. I hold no brief for the Lords Amendment, but there is in fact something to be said for these words "physical suitability." It is on that point that the House wants to be quite sure. We want to be certain that there are not social gradations to be considered in the matter, which would prevent some people from doing work they disliked doing. The right hon. Gentleman said that these rules were the rules adopted under the old system of unemployment benefit or dole, against which I have heard stronger words used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Clynes) than by any other Member of the House. We are, therefore, agreed that they may have harmful effects Is it certain that there will be the same interpretation put upon these rules under a system for which there is a contribution made by the insured person, or may not the argument be used by the manager that because the man or woman contributes he or she is in a different position and ought to have more consideration? Would not such a man or woman, perhaps, be allowed to make a choice which it is not in the interests of the country that he or she should make?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Is it the case that if a decision is given by a manager, and it is regarded as a harsh decision, there is an appeal, but if there is a decision which I might call a lax decision, as to which there is some complaint—a decision that unemployment pay can be drawn although many people would think it ought not to be drawn—is there anybody who has a locus standi to raise the question? Is it an absolute one-man decision, if it is in favour of the applicant, but 2104 not a one-man decision if it is against the applicant?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The manager is instructed by the Ministry of Labour. These Regulations place upon him the necessity to look closely into the conditions under which persons may receive benefit. When this Act is passed the manager will again be instructed by a series of Regulations which I am going to send out. If he says to an applicant, "Well, I am doubtful whether you are entitled to refuse this job, and I will therefore suspend your benefit or donation," then the Insurance Officer comes into play, and he says whether the suspension is right or wrong. If he confirms it the applicant is entitled to have the mater reviewed by appeal to the Court of Referees.
Colonel LAMBERT WARD
Harsh cases make bad law. The right hon. Gentleman instanced the undoubtedly hard case of the watchmaker who might be called upon to take up work as a shipyard labourer. By dwelling on that illustration the Minister of Labour would make bad law of this Bill. Representing, as I do, a constituency which is partly residential, partly industrial, I can confirm what was said by an hon. Member that there is a great deal of feeling at the present moment amongst the small residential class when they cannot obtain domestic servants. They only want one, or perhaps at the most, two, and they are willing to pay reasonable wages and to give a good home, but for some reason or other domestic service is unpopular, and domestic servants are not to be obtained. I suppose to some extent they feel that they are losing their freedom. They are perfectly entitled to do what they like, but it is hard that people who are prepared to employ these young women and to give them good wages should be compelled to contribute towards unemployment benefit because they will not accept that work. I wish the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to agree with the Lords Amendment, or at any rate, to introduce some words in substitution therefor. He has just said that his Department are going to issue all sorts of instructions to every committee, but I would rather see those instructions and regulations embodied in the Act, than have them left in the discretion of a body of Government officials.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
I wish to put a further question to the right hon. Gentleman to clear up a matter which was raised by my right hon. Friend at my side (Mr. Pretyman). The Minister has told us that the decisions of these managers of exchanges may be appealed against in the sense that the person who is applying for benefit has the right to appeal if the decision goes against him, but what is the position if a large number of people differ locally from a decision given in favour of an applicant? The Minister has told us that that case comes up to him. Does the Minister himself claim the right to review any decision that may be given, because if not, once a case has been decided by the local official in favour of an applicant, it would seem that nothing further can be done, however many people locally may object to the decision. I think the House should know that.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I think the point raised by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) is an exceedingly important one in the interests of the taxpayer. Supposing we have a manager who, by inadvertence or otherwise, constantly decides in favour of the applicant and gives him unemployment insurance pay when the man is not really entitled to it. There is no appeal provided for by the Act in that case. Supposing a private individual hears that a man who was in his employment and who has left of his own accord has got unemployment pay, and he makes representations to the manager that the man ought not to receive the pay, the manager may say, "I know better, and I will pay no attention to your view." In that case has the Minister any real power or not? Suppose the case is brought to the attention of the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is a bonâ fide case for interference on his part, can he go to the manager and put the facts before him, and ask him to reconsider his decision? Supposing the manager refuses, and says, "I am the officer in this case, and according to the Act there is no appeal given against me, except when the person who applies for the unemployment pay desires to appeal, ' what would be the course which the right hon. Gentleman could take then?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Let us take the case where a too favourable decision has been given. If a manager is in doubt 2106 as to whether the claim is a good one, he ought then to suspend the unemployment pay. The Regulations on that point are very clear. Further, we have inspectors, whose duty it is to go round checking these things under the Ministry of Labour, and it is their duty to examine these awards. But if an award has been given, and the manager has not observed the Regulations, but has given an award loosely, if it finally came to me, either by way of complaint or by way of question in this House, my function would be this. I would call the manager's attention to it, and I would say: "This must go to the insurance officer. The insurance officer must examine this, and if his decision is different from that given by you, then the machinery of appeal on behalf of the claimant comes in once more": but I have no authority—I am kept definitely out of it—to overrule the final decision of the Umpire. That is independent of the Minister altogether, but, for the rest, it would be my duty in the case instanced to bring it to the attention of the manager. I would point out to the House that the manager has no power except what he gets from me under this Act on his appointment, and if I said: "This ought to be looked into more closely, and you must take it to the insurance officer," that would be done forthwith, although I must again make it clear that I cannot interfere with the final decision of the Umpire.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I want to get this quite clear, because it may be necessary for us to divide in favour of the Lords Amendment on this point. The right hon. Gentleman has read out to us certain instructions which have been given by an Umpire in regard to out-of-work donation.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
He says those decisions would apply to this particular Act. How is that? It is not in the Act. Is it because he has the power under Regulations to apply those decisions?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then let the House see what may happen. These decisions, which seem to me to be very reasonable, are not in the Act.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then put this Amendment in. Otherwise, supposing the right hon. Gentleman opposite succeeds him, he will apply different decisions.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have read a decision in a case referred by the referees to the Umpire. How can I put such decisions in the Act? There are probably hundreds of them, but I read one case which referred to suitability.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am afraid I have not made myself clear. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that these very decisions which he read out would go a long way towards meeting this Amendment.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I said the administration of the new Unemployment Insurance Act would follow the administration of the out-of-work donation, to which that decision which I have read did apply.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understood that there was no necessity for this particular Amendment because of what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. If that is so, I point out that if there is a new Labour Minister, the whole thing is changed, or may be changed. The result of not putting in an Amendment of this sort is that anything which may be done in the right direction by the present Minister may be changed if another Minister comes into office. Under these circumstances, I hope the House will divide in favour of the Lords Amendment.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Sir Montague Barlow)
I think it desirable to correct the statement of the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down with regard to the Umpire's decision. The machinery of the Act is designed to keep the whole question of these decisions out of the hands of the Minister. Whether rightly or wrongly, the view taken at the time when the earlier Act was passed was that these questions of detail were judicial matters which could best be put in the hands of a person in a judicial position. The Umpire has a great many cases referred to him, and they are all test cases. Decisions are given, and they become in effect a series of decisions on important points. It is true that these decisions may not be binding in law, but 2108 they are of great authority, and they are circulated by the Minister as guidance for the decisions of insurance officers and courts of referees in similar cases. It has been suggested that these semi-judicial decisions might be incorporated in the Act. They are a body of decisions which are growing day by day, and as the Act develops in administration, these decisions will grow. As they are given quite independently of any particular Minister, they are a body of administrative rules growing up alongside the Act which are quite independent of what Minister occupies office. They are, in fact, a real safeguard for the honest administration of the Act, and that being so, I would suggest that to put them into the Act is an impossible thing.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MILLS
References have been made to the Labour Exchanges, and I would suggest that hon. Members who are interested in their work should at least attend an occasional meeting of an unemployment committee. Then I am certain there are Members of the House who would come down to the realities of the case. In the first place the managers of the Labour Exchanges are the very last persons in the world to be favourable to the men—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!]—because, in the last resort, their promotion depends entirely upon their efficiency as viewed from the central office, and it certainly would not be viewed in any favourable light if their decisions were of the character suggested by hon. Members. With regard to the Lords Amendment under discussion, it is, after all, a breach of contract. You have men who have subscribed towards unemployment insurance, under the impression that there is a certain wording in the Act, and here you deliberately alter it. In a Debate on the question of unemployment I raised the point as to what should be reasonable remuneration for work done, but obviously that comes up against the whole principles of this Act. The men on the unemployment committees, the representatives of employers and employed, do not allow the managers of the Labour Exchanges to have any power in the matter. The manager attends largely as a spectator, and may be called on to give his advice occasionally, but he is never there as an autocrat or even as a benevolent autocrat.
2109 It is said that there is a prevalence of unemployment due to a very decided disinclination on the part of unemployed girls to go into domestic service. In this matter you are probably reaping the fruits of the very short-sighted views of mistresses in the past and also in the present. A case has come to my knowledge, within the last five days, in which a man, with children, received unemployment benefit. He has kept his child at a secondary school at Plumstead in spite of the fact that the parents have not had sufficient to keep body and soul together. The child has passed for the Civil Service examination and now, because of the parent's poverty, she has had to accept a position in domestic service. The scholars in that school have clubbed together and bought the necessary material for her, while various friends have helped to equip her to go to domestic service. The girl says that her employers are very, very nice, but that, somehow or other, having had a secondary school education, and having been given some sort of viewpoint with a development rather above the outlook of a domestic servant, she finds it almost intolerable on this small issue, that she is instructed in very unmistakable terms to refer to small children as "Master" this, and "Miss" that. To hon. Members that seems utterly futile and stupid. You will not see that the times are changing, but you must realise that you can no longer accept the domestic help in the spirit of servitude which prevailed in the past.
§ Sir H. NIELD
It is strange that I should find myself in agreement with the hon. Member who has just sat down. I think we are suffering from the sins of the past generation, from want of consideration, sympathy and of a proper appreciation that, after all, those who help use in our households are our fellow-creatures. Those of us who know how to treat our maids have the privilege of being able to keep them for long periods of years, and that is the very best illustration of the manner in which they are treated. There are, however, other things that militate against them. I know of a case where very great struggles were made by the parents to educate the elder girl as a teacher. This has operated on the other members of the family, because of the standard of comfort as a pupil 2110 teacher which the elder girl was able to experience. This has set, as it were, a tone in the family, and made the rest dissatisfied. Another sister has proved a most excellent domestic servant, yet there has always been an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction with her post because her sister's friends are disposed to look upon her occupation as totally different from the other. If only we can remove that obstacle by reasonable treatment and freedom I am perfectly sure that much of the prejudice will disappear. The test is the residential one. Many of us have watched the principal thoroughfares of our suburban districts and have seen that the root of the whole of this objection is the desire for the evening's freedom. You can see that on the very famous walk called Spaniard's Walk at Hampstead Heath every night until ten o'clock. The girls cannot see that it is a very short-sighted policy, if they can get comfortable homes, to object merely on the ground that they want every evening in the week free. Against that there is the good living in the household, as opposed to spasmodic meals to which many of them are disposed to submit outside in order to have money to spend.
What I really rose to ask was whether the decision of the umpire is to be regarded in the ligt of a code of case law similar to that to which the courts have to submit in reference to the decisions of the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal? There may be no finality and it may be very difficult indeed sometimes to distinguish between the facts of the case. The facts may be identical and the area of the case different. It may produce innumerable differences of decision, and in a very short time one would have built up, what laymen always protest against, that intricate system of case law which is able to defeat the intentions of Parliament. There, should be some means of insisting that the case must indeed present an unmistakable differentiation before the decision of a recognised umpire is lightly passed by. I hope, in the administration of this Act, that there will not occur what those of us who had the administration of the Military Service Acts and the Profiteering Acts constantly found, that decisions came from the Departments. I understand that cannot be so in this case.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I want to carry the question which I asked the right hon. Gentleman a little further upon that definite particular point. When the right hon. Gentleman was answering me, he used the expression that when the matter was at all in doubt then the manager would suspend. Is that perfectly clear? It makes a very considerable difference. If the manager is simply to use his own judgment, and if he gives a lax decision, and there is no appeal against that decision, it would be almost necessary for us to divide on the Lords Amendment. What we want is fair play. The right hon. Gentleman told me, in answer to my question, quite frankly—and it was quite obvious he was right—that it was almost impossible to devise any machinery by which any person could have the right, when an official gives a decision considered to be lax, to call that decision into question. This is bad from all points of view, because we see that the only action that can be taken by people who think that lax decisions are given is general criticism and letters to the Press, which bring the whole system into disrepute. If my right hon. Friend will make it perfectly clear that where there is any doubt the matter will be put in suspense or refused, and if he will insist upon it going before a tribunal and coming to an umpire, who will only grant a claim where in his opinion—it must be his opinion, of course—there is no doubt whatever that the claimant has not been offered work which is in any way suitable, then we shall be able to accept the situation. If not I shall feel it my duty to Divide the House, because we shall have no sufficient safeguard, by leaving the words as they are, and leaving their interpretation to an officer who may be too lax—and there have been such instances—without any appeal to the Minister.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I cannot say offhand whether there is a regulation which says to the manager: "If there is any doubt about that case, do not grant benefit, but suspend." If there is no such regulation, I will give an undertaking that there shall be. I wish to deal fairly and squarely, and I will give this undertaking to my hon. Friend.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I want to go further. I did not refer to the inspectors until the second time that I tried to ex- 2112 plain this. Since I call the inspector a man who checks this decision, I have been looking at his powers under the Act and they are very extensive indeed. It may very well be that we have not got enough inspectors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Now, see where the poor unfortunate Minister stands; I expected to hear that the moment I said it. What I am asked to do—and I will do it as far as I can—is to see that, as far as possible, the decision shall be fair and square, and not unfair either way. I say, "Well, the man I rely on is the manager. He has to take my instructions, and if he has to that shall be done. The person who checks these things is the inspector. Here, I am asked to get the administration as good as it may be. I say I have not enough inspectors, and if I come and ask for more I shall be told that I am among the squandermania league." I will give an assurance that if it is not the duty of the manager to suspend, when a case comes before him in which there is a doubt as to whether the refusal to take work is legitimate under the Act, then it shall be his duty to suspend and to have it referred to the insurance officers.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
The whole difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with is what is suitable employment. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that it might be necessary to employ a great many more inspectors, and if that were necessary to ensure that no injustice was done, of course, we should all agree. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We must either agree to the additional inspectors or that these words lead to such results that injustice would be done, and I suggest that the Amendment proposed is a reasonable standard by which to judge whether a man should take a job or be considered an unemployed person. Surely it is wide enough. No man would object to be judged by that standard, and it would overcome all the difficulty of determining what is or what is not suitable employment. If the House divide upon it, I shall certainly support the Lords Amendment.
§ Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment." put, and agreed to.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ Agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Committee be appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their Amendments to the Bill."—[Dr. Macnamara.]
§ Mr. CLYNES
I take advantage of this Motion to address questions on two general points to my right hon. Friend opposite. One is with regard to what I understand is the increasing degree of complaint on the part of many of the associations, due to the very serious delay in sending the authority to pay the benefits to which the persons are entitled. I have recently seen evidence of delay in sending this authority extending to six and seven weeks, and it is really very hard that men should have to wait so long for their pay. I want to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will take some steps to have some special inquiry made into these cases, provided, of course, we supply him with some definite instances which may guide him as to the causes of delay, which is a ground of real soreness, naturally, to trade unions and the men themselves. The other point is with reference to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of the Debate this afternoon. I understood him to say that he intended to issue through the proper quarter—the various Employment Exchanges—some instruction with regard to women or other persons who might have exhausted their benefit, but who might desire to claim the extended benefit accruing under this amending Bill. I understand he has in mind the case of persons, mostly women, whose condition in life has so altered that they do not intend in the future to seek any ordinary wage-earning occupation, and I believe it is the intention to prevent the payment of the benefits in those cases. What I want to ask is, what precisely are the steps which he intends to take? I should hope he would avoid anything in the nature of offensive or objectionable domestic inquisition, and that some step will be taken to have a proper authority to decide whether those persons have a proper claim or not. I think it would be re-assuring to the particular individuals 2114 involved if there could be an answer to those questions.
I cannot sit down without expressing what, I think, is the general feeling of the House and of all parties, and that is, that we are indebted, and have been since this amending Bill came before us, to the industry displayed by the right hon. Gentleman, and to the lucidity which he has exhibited in the repeated statements he has had to make to this House. We are accustomed to receive from him uniform courtesy—that we expected—but I think the House has been exceptionally helped by the attention which the right hon. Gentleman has paid to the arduous duty of getting this Bill through its different stages. Personally, we on this side are disappointed with the size of the Bill, and believe it does not go far enough in dealing with the problem. But we cannot withhold our thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the helpful manner in which he has assisted all of us in dealing with the various parts of the Bill.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his comments, and I, too, am much obliged to all parties of the House for the way I have been helped in bringing this Bill to a final conclusion under the urgent circumstances with which we are confronted. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's two questions. The first point is that associations under Section 17 of the main Act find that they cannot get reimbursed with sufficient quickness for money paid out, or cannot get authority from us to pay out money as agents under the main Act. Every case brought before me I have done my best to hasten. All sorts of checks are necessary for the proper expenditure of public money, and in some cases the local branch secretary of the trade union has not supplied sufficient detail, or the precise information which we want. But I can assure my right hon. Friend that it has been before me constantly ever since the fall of the year, and anything I can do, or the officials can do, to expedite the payment of money due, we will do, and any case he brings to my notice I will take up personally forthwith. With regard to the second point, a woman has been insured and she marries. There are certain contributions to her credit. She is no longer going to be in the industrial world; her necessities do not 2115 compel her to continue there. For the first year after that she is entitled to such benefits as her contributions have accrued, if she really wants work, is available for work and unable to obtain it. That is laid down in the main Act. Under this Bill we have very much extended the benefits, and we have very much eased the qualifications for such a woman, who could, on the strength of 20 weeks' employment last year, although she is at home with a husband who maintains her, and she does not wish to go to work, claim two series of 16 weeks in the emergency period. I say it would be hardly fair for such a woman to claim it, if she did not need it, and if she did not satisfy the condition in the new Bill, namely, that she is genuinely seeking whole-time employment. What I said at the outset, and now repeat, is that I shall call the attention of those who administer this Bill to this fact, amongst others, that in any case, whoever it may be, she has, under the main Act, to make it clear that she wants work, that she is available for it, which is a very important qualification, and that she cannot get it; and, further, for the emergency period, that she is genuinely seeking whole-time employment. What I said was that I propose to call the attention of the officers who will administer this to those conditions in order that they may be quite clear on the point. Again I thank my right hon. Friend.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee nominated of Mr. Neville Chamberlain, Major Hayward, Dr. Macnamara, Mr. Pennefather, and Mr. Tyson Wilson.
§ Three to be the quorum.
§ To withdraw immediately.—[Dr. Macnamara.]
§ Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments reported later, and agreed to.
§ To be communicated to the Lords.—[Dr. Macnamara.]