§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not propose to call the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Southport (Sir J. Brunner)—in page 2, lines 13 and 14, to leave out the wordshe shall nevertheless be entitled to receive benefit,and to insert instead thereof the wordsthe Minister may, if it appears to him that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it is expedient in the public interest that such an applicant should be allowed to receive benefit, authorise the receipt of benefit by that applicant.
§ Mr. HANNON
I beg to move, in page 2, lines 13 and 14, to leave out the wordshe shall nevertheless be entitled to receive benefit,and to insert instead thereof the wordsthe Minister shall have power to authorise the receipt of benefit by such an applicant.This Amendment is of profound importance from the point of view of the efficient administration of unemployment insurance in this country. The whole structure of 2297 our legislation relating to unemployment insurance up to the present has been on the basis of the Minister having discretion, in the last resort, to approve of unemployment benefit being given. This Bill seeks to establish a legal right to uncovenanted benefit, within, of course, the limiting conditions laid down in the Bill, on the part of every person in this country who may be out of employment for all time, or, at all events, out of employment during the period of the operation of this Bill. I suggest that it was never the intention of those responsible for the earlier Measures of unemployment insurance which were passed through this House that it should be laid down as a permanent legal right of an unemployed man that he should receive unemployment benefit at the expense of the ratepayers and taxpayers of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who, if I may respectfully say so, has done more for the efficient development of this great social work in this country than any other Member of this House, when he had ample opportunity in the past of expanding, who with every desire to make his Measures as comprehensive as possible, never ventured to undertake a proposition so profoundly against the whole principle of unemployment insurance as the Minister now seeks to embody in this Bill.
The existing statutory conditions with regard to unemployment insurance are as follows: In the first place, there must be payment of 12 contributions under the 1920 Act. In the second place, a man must be continuously unemployed since his application for benefit. Thirdly, he must be capable of and available for work, but unable to find suitable employment. Fourthly, he must not have exhausted his right to benefit under the 1920 Act; and, fifthly, he must take a course of instruction at any particular educational centre if he is required to do so. The existing statutory obligation with regard to the fourth of these conditions has been rigidly observed, and rightly so. It has been always held up to the present that the man must not have exhausted his right. The Minister seeks to bring into this Bill power to give a man uncovenanted benefit without regard to any right which he may or may not previously have had in relation to unemployment insurance.
2298 The disqualifications which have operated up to the present are, first of all, loss of work through stoppage in the case of a trade dispute at the works where the man was employed; secondly, loss of work through misconduct, or where the man performed some act that was against the interest of the industry in which he was engaged; thirdly, that he was an inmate of an institution supported out of public funds; fourthly, that his residence was outside the United Kingdom; and, fifthly, that no contributions had been paid during an insurance year, and that he was in receipt of health insurance benefit or an old age pension. All these are disqualifications under the existing law. But now this Bill lays it down that an insured person who has exhausted his right to covenanted benefit shall be entitled to uncovenanted benefit as a legal right, if and so long as he continues to comply with certain conditions laid down in the Bill. These new statutory conditions strike out an entirely new course of procedure in relation to unemployment and unemployment insurance.
If the Bill were accepted by the House in its present form, it would really be a Measure for the promotion of perpetual pauperism in this country. It would be a Bill to encourage large numbers of people who never desire to work, and who would use every opportunity to live at the expense of the honest workers in the community, to remain out of employment either continuously or, at all events, for long periods of time. In submitting this Amendment to the House, I make no reflection at all upon the great majority of the wage-earning classes in this country. They are, in the vast number of cases, men of great integrity, who desire honestly and honourably to make their living under fair and reasonable conditions, without accepting any form of charity from any source whatever. If the establishment of this legal right to uncovenanted benefit were to become an essential part of the law of this country, it would immediately give direct encouragement to numbers of ne'er-do-wells to become a continuous parasitic element in our public life, and that would be disastrous. On these grounds, and because the acceptance of this principle in this Bill would strike at the very roots of the efficiency of unemployment insurance as a great social and beneficent 2299 influence for the working people of this country, I beg to move this Amendment.
§ Sir JOHN BRUNNER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I regret that I was not here, Mr. Speaker, when you referred to my Amendment, but these words really amount to the same thing as my Amendment, which restored the words of the Act of 1922. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last that uncovenanted benefit should not be made a permanent part of unemployment insurance. As a matter of fact, uncovenanted benefit is not insurance. It seems to me that it ought to have been ruled out of order in the 1922 Bill when it was first inserted, and ought to have been put in a separate Bill. National insurance ought to stand by itself, and all other forms of relief ought to be dealt with in a separate Measure. We are now in a state of complete confusion in regard to other kinds of relief, such as Poor Law relief and uncovenanted benefit. They are apt to overlap and come into collision. I would, therefore, suggest to the House that, as the. Bill is now only a temporary Measure, we should leave this uncovenanted benefit as an extra legal right, so to speak, and not make it a permanent part of national unemployment insurance. For these reasons I have pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ Mr. SHAW
This, it is true, is one of the vital principles of the Bill, and we might as well face the position frankly and deal with it. I have tried, in this Bill, to ensure that no decent workman or workwoman out of work shall be unable to draw unemployment pay. In this Bill there is no question of uncovenanted benefit. The benefit is given as a right, and not as a charity. It is given as a statutory right, and not by the volition of any Minister. This Amendment aims at giving the Minister power to say, speaking to one man: "You shall have benefit," and, speaking to another man: "You shall be refused it," although the two men might be conforming to exactly the same conditions. That is what this Amendment pretends to do, and, as a piece of drafting, I venture to suggest to the House that it is extremely bad policy to make the payment of benefit dependent on the will of any Minister. Ministers 2300 change, and you might have one Minister applying one set of rules to the situation, and another applying an entirely different method. I venture to suggest to the House that, apart from all other considerations, a method of that kind is a very bad method indeed. I want, however, to deal not merely with the technicalities of the Amendment itself. It is no use my scoring a debating point on the words of an Amendment; the principle is the thing that matters here. I have deliberately and quite calmly stated to the House on more than one occasion that it is the intention of this Bill to make benefit payable for every week that a genuine workman or workwoman happens to be unemployed.
What virtue is there in saying to a genuine man who has suffered very severely—he could not have exhausted his first period of unemployment benefit without intense suffering—when he is literally down and out financially, "Now you must go for a period of weeks without benefit altogether"? In order to do what? It can be for only one of two things. The man can go to the Poor Law guardians for relief or he can undercut his fellow workmen and sell his labour cheaply. Which of the alternatives does the Mover of the Amendment desire? I have tried in the Bill to put in safeguards of such a character that no work-shy can be paid. I think I have succeeded in doing that, but I want any hon. Member who really believes that the decent man shall be denied benefit, although he is unemployed, to state so openly and to have done with it. The Mover of the Amendment, with a very fine sense of alliteration, talked about this being a Measure for the promotion of perpetual pauperism. There is no pauperism about it. It is an insult to the ordinary working man to call his unemployment benefit anything like charity or pauperism. It is an insult to couple his name and pauperism in any way. We shall make no progress by not facing the facts of the situation, and, above all, by not facing the fact that the vast majority of the working people of this country are as honest as any class in the country, and that they are neither perpetual paupers nor work-shy. It is extremely unwise to starve the 99 honest persons in order to prevent the 100th wicked person from getting something.
§ Mr. SHAW
I do not say that the hon. Gentleman suggested it at all. He did talk about a Measure for the promotion of perpetual pauperism. I suggest to him that this is a Measure for the prevention of pauperism in the case of the majority of the working classes who are undoubtedly as honest as he or I.
§ Mr. SHAW
There are in all classes of society, from the manual worker upwards and downwards, according to your point of view, work-shys. They are not more numerous among the manual workers than among any other class of society; in fact I think they are rather less numerous. I cannot understand the philosophy of a man who, being afraid that someone, a work-shy, might get benefit, would deliberately deprive the huge majority of the workers of benefit in order to punish that work-shy. That apparently is the policy. We have evidence of the fact that the gaps that existed, the stoppage of benefits that existed, simply meant in many of of the towns that the man who was refused benefit had to go to the Poor Law guardians and the burden was thrown on the locality. I hope that the House will accept neither the principle that the Minister should have a right to say whether or not a man should have benefit, nor the principle that it is necessary at some time to stop a man's benefit, in order to do what? I put that question to anyone who speaks in favour of this Amendment. What is the reason for stopping the benefit? What good purpose would it serve? The only purpose would be to drive to the guardians people who do not want to go there.
There is nothing sacrosanct about the old methods of conducting insurance. It was a brilliant idea that suggested the first Workmen's Insurance Bill and everybody ought to render honour to those who conceived it. But there is nothing pontifical about it. We do not want to worship at the throne of the conceivers of this idea, and to sayAs it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.We progress occasionally. I suggest that this Bill is sound, common-sense progress, that it is neither economical nor 2302 moral to refuse assistance to those who have suffered the worst from unemployment, and that it is both sound in principle and sound in economy to make certain that the genuine workman who is unemployed through no fault of his own shall at any rate not starve. I ask the House to refuse the principle underlying this Amendment. It is a double-barrelled one. It means that the Minister shall say whether or not the benefit shall be paid, but its intention is to prevent continuous benefit as a desirable thing in the interests of the community.
§ Sir PHILIP LLOYD-GREAME
I agree with the Minister in one thing that he said, namely, that, in considering the Amendments on the Paper, we should face the real facts. I ask the House to turn to what are the real facts and to get away from generalisations. I ask the House to accept this Amendment, because it is a natural, proper and logical consequence of the Amendment to Clause 1 which was carried in Committee. When the Minister came to the House with his Bill originally he was proposing a Bill which was permanent in its character. Many of us in the Debate on the Second Reading stated that we thought that you ought not to deal in a period of acute emergency, when you could not ascertain the facts correctly, with insurance for the whole of the future and the return to normal times. That view was accepted in Committee by a large majority, and an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Masterman) was carried. The House will see that at the beginning of the first Clause there are now included the wordsUntil the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-six."—Therefore, for all practical purposes the view of the Committee was that this should be made a temporary Measure for the period between now and June, 1926. The object of the Amendment, carried in Committee, was that we should continue the emergency legislation, the emergency provisions, the emergency powers, now in force in all their fullness during that emergency period. It really is no good, in view of that fact, to come to the House and utter generalisations as to who is to suffer. If the present Amendment is inserted, there is not one man or one woman who, during the currency of this Bill up to June, 1926, will be deprived of benefit 2303 which would have been obtainable if the Amendment were not inserted. That is a complete reply to the contention which the Minister has put forward. He is asking the House to reject the present Amendment on the suggestion that, if it is carried, someone is to be deprived of benefit. I challenge him to contradict my statement that if the present Amendment is accepted there will not be during the currency of this Bill, when passed, one man or woman who will be deprived of benefit to the full amount.
What the Minister really wishes to do is to prejudge the whole of the future. That has to be settled when we come to the end of June, 1926, and to a new Insurance Bill, when we shall, with knowledge of the facts, be able to recast, I hope, in a much more satisfactory way, which will give satisfaction to a far larger number of the great mass of contributors to the fund, the whole of the insurance scheme. There is a matter of principle here. I think that uncovenanted benefit is absolutely right in an emergency period. But it is not insurance. The whole principle of unemployment insurance has been that when a man draws his benefit as of right, the amount to which he is entitled shall bear a relation not merely to the general solvency of the fund, but also to the number of contributions that he has paid. I observe that in a memorandum, issued by the Minister of Labour on 13th February, 1924, containing his directions to local employment committees, he says:The scheme of unemployment insurance as contained in the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 is based on the contributory principle, i.e., contributions are payable by insured contributors to the unemployment fund and benefit is payable out of that fund in strict proportion to contribution.He then goes on to say:It is obviously important that the unemployment fund should be restored to solvency at the earliest possible moment, and that a return should be made to the strict principle of contributory insurance.That is in the same famous document which contained the reference to aliens. It is right for two reasons. If, in the first place, you allow as a covenanted right practically unlimited benefit to be received, that really is not unemployment insurance; it is taxing the people who are in an industry, whether the employers or the workmen, for general relief. That is a very different thing from the 2304 principle of contributory insurance, and, once accepted, it would very likely be a very serious blow to the whole principle of contributory insurance. I ask the House to take this further point into consideration. If you make this permanent, not only are you abrogating that principle, but it must be remembered that there is only a certain amount to go round out of the fund, and that we shall have to consider on later Amendments the financial solvency of this fund as being very hardly tried at the present moment and by the provisions which are inserted in this Bill.
Let the House remember that there are 12,000,000 people contributing to this fund. If you perpetuate uncovenanted benefit as a right for an unlimited period, you may be giving an advantage to a certain number of people, but you are depriving yourself of the power of giving any alternative benefit to the great mass of contributors. I ask those hon. Members who believe in contributory insurance whether you may not be seriously interfering with the willingness of everyone concerned to continue contributing, if you are not going to spread the benefits more widely. For all these reasons I submit that the Amendment should be accepted. Let me add one other point. The Minister has said that he does not want this matter to be left to his discretion, but that he wishes it to be given as a right. How inconsistent the Minister is! On the last new Clause the Minister declined to accept the proposal made because he said that a discretion must be left to the Minister.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Surely if the Minister may exercise his discretion in one case he may exercise it in another. The whole point of the Minister's observations on the last proposal was that it should be left to his discretion to do what was right, and the point of his observations on this proposal is that you cannot trust the Minister with discretion. Surely neither he nor his predecessors nor his successors are so intellectually abnormal that while they can be trusted with discretion under five Clauses of a Bill, they cannot be trusted under the sixth Clause. In Committee, my right hon. Friend took us through the Bill and 2305 pointed out Clause after Clause where the Minister wanted discretion. For instance, there is Clause 3, where he has a general discretion ranging over a year, and I think there is an Amendment by the hon. Member who just interrupted me, on the Order Paper at this moment, seeking not to take away the Minister's discretion, but to extend it for another year.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Surely if he is discreet enough to have discretion on one matter, he is discreet enough to have discretion on all matters.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Yes, we gave discretion to our Ministers. Really the hon. Member should learn something about this Measure before coming to discuss it. There was a discretion in the Minister; that was the law as passed and administered by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), and it was the law as passed and administered by the Minister of Labour under the last Government, and the only reason the Minister has put in the Clause dealing with this matter is to alter the law as it was administered by his predecessor. I venture to say that this is, above all others, a case where the discretion should be kept because it is a case where you ought to give, in an emergency period, full uncovenanted benefit to people who really need it, but where in the interests of the solvency of the fund and in the interests of the contributors you should not give it where it is not needed. The Minister says "What an outrageous and appalling thing this is." This principle of benefits received bearing a direct relation to contributions paid is to be found in every single trade union benefit scheme administered by trade unions in this country.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is so transparently honest and so manifestly sincere in all he does and we so greatly admire him for it, that I think it a great pity he did not get closer to the purpose of this Amendment. He gave us some unexceptionable general dicta, but they had not much to do with this Amendment. He says that every poor man and woman out of work is to have benefit within this 2306 Measure as of right. That is his case. His hon. Friends behind hint endorse that case, but they add "contributions or no contributions." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear:"] There you are. That is the difference between us in a sentence. Of course these people have all to get relief, but the issue is: Shall they get relief as a right out of this fund, even though they have no contributions at all? That is the point. My hon. Friends above the Gangway have added a footnote to the Minister's speech by pointing out that their view is that benefits should be given out of this fund, not as a discretionary matter, but as a statutory right, whether the recipients have made contribution or not. The Minister does not go as far as that—I will say that for him—but that is where his friends are leading him. The Minister says he does not want any discretion on his shoulders. He says, in effect, that those shoulders are far too puny for the weight of discretion to rest upon them, but, as a matter of fact, under Subsection (2) of Clause 3 he takes upon himself an absolute discretion in this very matter of granting benefit, and not in a different matter, right down to the end of June, 1926. However, that is a mere debating point, and I do not press it.
The importance of this Amendment has been minimised by an Amendment carried in Committee providing that this scheme is to come to an end in June, 1926, and that we are to build up a new scheme. Therefore it is not so important as when it was first introduced, because when first introduced this scheme was to be the permanent insurance for the future. If I do not make quite so much of this question now, it is because of the very salutary effect of the Amendment, which is to make this an emergency and temporary Measure, lock, stock and barrel. The Minister's position is perfectly simple. He says, "I will give these men a statutory right to benefit out of this fund, and I will have no discretion at all." The motive is excellent, but can you give a statutory right from this fund on a too slender contribution qualification or on no contribution qualification at all? That is the issue. If you do so, then, although this scheme has done some wonderful things in its time, you will turn it into a compassionate fund. I am not saying that these people should not have benefit. All I am asking is: 2307 Can you give it from this fund in the way I have indicated? If you do so, I say you are blowing the scheme sky high as a compulsory threefold contributory insurance scheme. Remember, this is a fund built up by very heavy contributions from the people who are in work and from the employers. My right hon. Friend the Minister knows that, as far as the men are concerned, many of them have been on short time, and can very ill afford the payments which they have been making so long and so cheerfully.
You will be making this a compassionate fund to an extent. This is not entirely uncovenanted benefit and, I think, on that point there is a certain amount of misunderstanding. These men, for whom the Minister is now pleading, who are to have the right to claim this benefit, must have made some 30 contributions out of a possible 155, but it is uncovenanted benefit to this extent, that the contribution qualification is extremely slight. To come down to the brass tacks of the matter, you are going to give the man who has made 30 contributions out of 155 the right to claim, week by week, without intermission, benefits up to the end of June, 1926. Of course, if you are in favour of a non-contributory scheme as the hon. Members behind the Minister are, you can do so cheerfully, but if you are in favour of a contributory scheme it is a different matter. Although probably no attention will be paid to me, I say I am sure you will do great harm to the working classes of this country if and when you destroy the threefold contributory scheme. If you are in favour of a contributory scheme and of running it as an insurance fund on the lines of every trade union out-of-work fund, you will be very careful before you give a statutory right out of this fund upon a very slender contribution qualification or indeed upon no such qualification at all. You will say as the Minister does say in Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, that the man who has not the proper qualification, the ordinary qualification of the trade union out-of-work scheme, may get benefit if he is genuinely seeking work, but cannot claim it as a statutory right; that this is not a compassionate fund, but a fund for a specific pur- 2308 pose; that if a man has made contributions he has a right, but if he has not made contributions he has not a right.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think I have stated the conditions fairly and I am referring to the case of a man who in the course of three years has made only thirty weekly contributions.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Certainly I am taking an extreme case, but that man can claim as a right benefit right down to the end of June, 1926.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The old scheme provided in such cases where the contribution qualification was slender or where it did not exist, that the man should have benefit, but it was in the discretion of the Minister just as the Minister in this case proposes to take discretion in Subsection (2) of Clause 3. I do not say and no one in the House says, that these poor men should have nothing, but what we are saying is that you cannot take it out of this fund and give it to them as a statutory right. If you do so you will in the end break this fund.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, it is, and I admit that, prophecy has been described as the most gratuitous form of error, but I am quite convinced that if you give a statutory right except on the ordinary contribution qualification, you will destroy this as an insurance fund and make it a compassionate fund. I do not suppose anyone will say that these men should not have something, but inasmuch as they have not paid due contributions, it should be in the discretion of the Minister. That is the beginning and end of all this discussion. I shall certainly support the Amendment in the interests of a fund for which I have a certain responsibility because I helped to build it up. It has done its work nobly through a long period of pressure and I am perhaps unduly jealous of any movement which I think 2309 will be fatal to the continuance of the contributory system. Hon. Members above the Gangway do not share my anxiety and are quite cheerful about this proposal, because they are in favour of a non-contributory system, but I am not in favour of such a system and I shall certainly vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Play has been made by both the last speakers about the impending bankruptcy of the fund if the words appearing in the Bill are allowed to remain and the Amendment is rejected, but I would remind the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who has quite a long experience of the operation of these Acts, and who is, I believe, more responsible than any other Member of any of the three Governments which have been in office since 1918 for bringing Unemployment Insurance Bills before this House, and engineering them through to become Acts of Parliament, that the individuals referred to here are not individuals newly coming into this scheme.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Consequently, many of them have contributed for a number of years, some of them since the commencement of the unemployment insurance scheme, and these people surely have a right to unemployment insurance when you have a period of abnormal unemployment in this country, because, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said on several occasions in this House, when piloting through the very first Bill on this subject that he brought into the House giving the uncovenanted benefit to those people, those people had been good contributors in the past to this Fund, the Fund by their contributions had a surplus of many millions, those millions belonged by right to the contributors, and, having come upon an evil day, it was their right to have a share of that Fund. That share was given to those contributors.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
At the discretion of the Minister and as a right are two different propositions, but the right was always observed to those individuals, 2310 contingent upon them satisfying the necessary qualifications that were set out, and those qualifications are in this Bill again.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
They are practically the same as appeared in the 1920 Act, which the right hon. Gentleman himself piloted through the House. Those people, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, built up that Fund, and, given good times, as he also said, they would pay back into the Fund the sums taken out of it. Surely then, if they are expected to pay back into the Fund something which they have received out of it, they have a right to benefit. What are the provisions laid down that these people have to observe so that they shall have uncovenanted benefit? There is, first, normal employment such as would make a man an employed person in the meaning of the principal Act; secondly, insurable employment, in normal times, suitable to his capacities, and so on. Every one of those provisions that he must satisfy the Committees that he has observed before he receives uncovenanted benefit are in this Bill, showing that he has paid in in the past and that he will pay in, given good times, again.
I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P Lloyd-Greame) should think he has scored a point against the Minister in this connection. This is not a permanent Bill. Instead of its being a permanent Bill, you have secured that it should only be a temporary Measure, covering the particular period over which you consider that this abnormal unemployment is going to run. We all hope that this abnormal unemployment will have ended before 1926. The right hon. Gentleman opposite wants the Minister of Labour to accept this Amendment to give him discretionary powers, but what are these discretionary powers? What would the words of the Amendment mean if they were put into this Bill? How far would they carry? How are those schemes considered to-day? They are considered by Committees, not by the Minister, and we find all the safeguards that are necessary already in the Bill. Some of them are even stricter than the safeguards brought in by the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell and the late Minister of Labour. It is 2311 not the Minister's discretion. The words as they stand give the discretionary power to the local committees and to the courts of referees to withdraw benefit which those people who are unemployed think they should receive, if those conditions set out in this particular Sub-section are not satisfactorily fulfilled. What greater safeguards can you have than those? They are the things, and not the discretionary power of any Minister, that have safeguarded you in the past.
I hope the hon. and right hon. Members opposite are not going to press this Amendment to a Division. If they do, I shall support the Minister of Labour in keeping the words as they are, in spite of what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman that in another Clause I seek to give the Minister discretionary power. I do, but on a very different question, a question which is much more strictly safeguarded even than this. I hope the hon. Members opposite will not press this to a Division, and even although the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell promises support, I do not know that he will take many of those on the benches behind him with him.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I hope the House will support the attitude taken by the Committee upstairs. When the Minister accepted the limitation of period in the Bill, I thought it was understood that the rest of the Committee were, generally speaking, agreed in favour of the uncovenanted benefit and making it a right and not a charity. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because it is desired by many of us to give security to the worker in industry that he should not be the victim either of cold charity or of the Poor Law. The various parties in this House have, on numerous platforms, stated their great desire to give security to the worker. Is it going to be given by leaving him to the tender mercies of the Minister or of local employment committees? The right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. LloydGreame) said that not one would be deprived of benefit if this Amendment were passed, but, if that is the case, why trouble to press the Amendment? I submit that the experience of the administration of uncovenanted benefit during the last few years points entirely 2312 in the opposite direction. Those who have been up against the individual cases know of extreme hardships and real suffering brought on many innocent people, willing workers, who have been deprived of this uncovenanted benefit, and this Bill seeks to remove that injustice.
The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) said it was all a question of what Fund the claim should come upon. I agree with him, but I want to put another view to the House. I think that the view of the individual himself is important, but I think also that the view of the locality is equally important, and that if you deprive an insured person of the right to this benefit, you are thrusting him on to the guardians, and you are going to pile up a large debt on the local ratepayer, which is going to be heavier in the future than it has been in the past. One object of this particular Clause is to relieve the local authorities from that burden of unemployment which is due to the gap period and the refusal of the insurance benefit. I submit that it is a national charge and that it is only right, in the interests of the ratepayers as well as of the insured persons, that this burden should be borne by the Insurance Fund and not thrust upon the local rates. The suggestion has been made that it was a compassionate allowance, but surely it is clear that the insured person will pay the amount when he gets back to work, and, therefore, it is an insurance fund, and the industry itself is going to bear the burden, as it rightly should. I hope the House will maintain the attitude of the Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Might I ask the Mover of the Amendment if he could not see his way to withdraw it? He will remember that in Committee upstairs we united and carried by a considerable majority a decision that the Bill should only be a temporary Measure, lasting for a few months. It was on that decision that I think a number of my friends voted upstairs against the particular Amendment now before the House. The Mover himself said that he has no wish to interfere with uncovenanted benefit until the whole thing is reconsidered, but this Amendment will interfere with what is called uncovenanted benefit, or it may do if you have another Minister in office, 2313 which many Members of this House no doubt desire, and I would appeal that we might rather keep to our decision as to the limitation of time, and then reconsider the whole question, than go back on the decision which was made in Committee upstairs.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am sure the House must be rather bewildered by the varied advice we get from the benches opposite. I understand that the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell Dr. Macnamara), who, if I may say so, made a very effective and powerful speech, said he would vote for this Amendment.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The right hon. Gentleman next to him thinks the Amendment should be withdrawn. Of course, it is a matter of individual opinion for which each right hon. Gentleman must take his own responsibility, as also the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson), but I do want to make this appeal to the House. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough referred to the necessity, to-day especially, of obtaining security for the worker. I venture to say that one of the best securities for the worker is a safe and reasonable contributory insurance scheme. I know nothing which appeals more to the great quality which, I believe, is possessed by the people of this country, than a scheme of this character. It is an easy thing, and perhaps a popular thing, to say, "Oh, well, let these men make this application as a right, rather than leave it to the discretion of the Minister." It is a matter than can be easily said, and, no doubt, looked at from a cursory point of view, may be popular on certain platforms, but I venture to say that you will be doing a great harm to a fund of this kind if you allow a quite natural sympathy to interfere with a scheme of this kind. In the first place, you ought to protect the contributors. I do not think many hon. Members will disagree when I say that at the present time the amounts which are paid, in one form or another, by the workers of this country for insurance, for their trade unions, and for their friendly societies have now reached a very large sum indeed, and it has pretty nearly reached the breaking-point. If you examine for one moment the amount which has to go out, of a man's 2314 wages every week in all these different ways, it comes to a very large sum indeed.
What is the direction to which you are leading in advocating the sort of suggestion that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough made? If you depart from the contributory system, and begin giving as a right to people who do not contribute, in the end it simply means that one of two things is going to happen to this fund. Either the fund is going into liquidation, or you have to increase the contributions. The contributions under this particular scheme are quite heavy enough. The Minister of Labour has made various increases in the fund at the expense of the contributors, but there is another course which might have been taken, which, I believe, would equally have commended itself to a large number of workers in this country, and that was to reduce the contributions to the fund. That might have been achieved in a year or two if a certain course the right hon. Gentleman had taken was reversed. Be that as it may, it is a very dangerous precedent to set. It is not a big matter, but it is a very unfortunate thing to put forward at the present time.
The issue is whether a man shall have a right to this benefit, or whether it shall be left to the discretion of the Minister. Hon. Gentlemen opposite ask, What does "discretion of the Minister" mean? It means the discretion of the local employment committees. I happen to be chairman of a particular employment committee. I have had the opportunity of observing the work of this particular committee in an industrial neighbourhood with a large representation of labour men and women on it. I can think of no occasion when injustice was done. I have seen the most patient consideration of cases, and when you say you are not prepared to give discretion to the Minister, you are simply attacking the work of the large number of employment committees up and down the country. I think you ought to be prepared to trust them. Even if a local committee goes wrong, as it is a matter of discretion for the Minister, there are various ways of raising the matter and putting it right. I appeal to anyone who wants to do justice, and to do something for people who are contributing to this fund, to stabilise it and maintain it. It is not a 2315 large matter, but it points in an unfortunate direction. Therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment, and those who support it, will maintain their attitude, because I think they are taking a long and farseeing view, and I believe it is wholly in the interests of the contributors to this fund as well as to the country.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I think the whole House has made up its mind on this question one way or the other. I do, however, echo the hope that the Mover of the Amendment will see fit to withdraw it. The Minister has accepted many decisions of the Committee upstairs, decisions of which he was not personally in favour, because he felt that the great desire on all sides of the House was to secure the passing of this Bill. I was certainly under the impression that the acceptance of the date made it pretty clear that the Clause we are now debating was carried upstairs, largely even by those who may not agree wholly with the principle of it, because it was recognised that the date had been accepted and put in the Bill. The point that interested me in the argument used by the right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. LloydGreame), in which he appeared entirely to answer himself, was that no one would lose benefit, and he proceeded to deal with the consequences to the finance of the Bill if the Bill were carried as it stands now. Obviously, if no one was to lose benefit under the uncovenanted benefit Clause, there can be no question of affecting the finances of the find if the Bill be carried as it stands.
The question of the discretion of the Minister is one in which our Bill as it stands would be of immense relief to large numbers of local committees, who would be glad to have this question of principle settled. There is still great discretion left to the local committees in the overhauling of the claims. The workshys are to be weeded out, and the appeal of any member who feels unjustly treated will come up to the Minister in the ordinary course. I want to put this question quite directly to the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), and to other 2316 Members who are opposing the Clause as it is worded. Do they want to take the unemployed worker off the fund? That is the crux of the whole thing. If not, there is absolutely nothing to quibble about in recognising the principle of a right so far as the fund itself is concerned. It is a right for the genuine worker when unemployed to receive help from the unemployment fund, and not from the Poor Law, and to save him from the indignity of being chivied about from pillar to post, as he has been under the old Act. The other point is rather important. The right hon. Member for Hendon says that there would be no change in the administration, but can he guarantee that the present Government will remain in power until 1926? I am perfectly prepared to accept that hypothesis, but I do not think we have any evidence or proof to sustain that point, and I do submit that, under the Act as it at present stands, the previous Government had got a three weeks' gap. It was the first thing the Labour Government removed.
Is it the intention of Members to go back to any idea of the gap? If not, they have already given away one of the things which they regarded as essential to the principle of uncovenanted benefit, the right to suspend benefits even from the genuine unemployed person, and we wish to take away from any Government during the existence of this Act the right to reverse the progressive steps that have already been taken, with the consent of this House, in recognition of the principle of continuous benefit. In the course of the speeches, therefore, Members on neither side of the House desire to remove the genuinely unemployed man from the fund. Very well, let us say so quite definitely, and let us recognise the principle that the insurance fund is a fund that should bear the burden of the genuine unemployed. That does not interfere with the principle of contribution. It is a collective contribution, and when the Member gets back to work he will be compelled to go on contributing to the fund, although, after this long spell, he may be fortunate enough never to want to draw unemployment benefit again. Therefore, it is not a reasonable proposition to say in every case, in the exigencies of the industry where continuous employment cannot be guaranteed, that the relationship of contribution is to apply 2317 before the benefit is drawn rather than the relationship of the whole period of the worker's contribution to the fund. The solvency of the fund is not in question in relation to this Amendment, nor is the three-fold contribution, but what is in question is taking the proper view of collective right of contributors to the fund to benefit at a time when they are in a position for which the fund was
§ primarily founded in the first instance, that is, the question of genuine unemployment. I hope, therefore, the House will accept the Clause as it stands.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 216; Noes, 201.2319
|Division No. 147.]||AYES.||[5.30 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morrison, Herbet (Hackney, South)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Groves, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Grundy, T. W.||Mosley, Oswald|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Moulton, Major Fletcher|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Muir, John W.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Murray, Robert|
|Alstead, R.||Harbord, Arthur||Murrell, Frank|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hardie, George D.||Nichol, Robert|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Nixon, H.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harris, Percy A.||O'Grady Captain James|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Oliver, George Harold|
|Baker, Walter||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Banton, G.||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Owen, Major G.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Haycock, A. W.||Paling, W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Parkinson, Jon Allen (Wigan)|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Perry, S. F.|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Potts, John S.|
|Bonwick, A.||Hindle, F.||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hobhouse, A. L.||Raffety, F. W.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hoffman, P. C.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Briant, Frank||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Broad, F. A.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Bromfield, William||Hudson, J. H.||Rea, W. Russell|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Isaacs, G. A.||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Ritson, J.|
|Buckle, J.||Jewson, Dorothea||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)||Scurr, John|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Clarke, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sexton, James|
|Climle, R.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kenyon, Barnet||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withington)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kirkwood, D.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Lansbury, George||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Cove, W. G.||Laverack, F. J.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Law, A.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Snell, Harry|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Leach, W.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Spence, R.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Linfield, F. C.||Spoor, B. G.|
|Dickie, Captain J. P.||Livingstone, A. M.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Dickson, T.||Loverseed, J. F.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lowth, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Dukes, C.||Lunn, William||Sunlight, J.|
|Duncan, C.||McEntee, V. L.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H (Derby)|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Mackinder, W.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Maden, H.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Finney, V. H.||March, S.||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Marley, James||Thurtle, E.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Martin W. H. (Dumbarton)||Toole, J.|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Maxton, James||Tout, W. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Middleton, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gosling, Harry||Millar, J. D.||Vivian, H.|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Mond, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Montague, Frederick||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Morel, E. D.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morris, R. H.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Whiteley, W.||Williams, Maj, A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Wignall, James||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wright, W.|
|Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Windsor, Walter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Lt.-Col. T.S.B. (Kenningtn.)||Wintringham, Margaret||Mr. John Robertson and Mr. Warne.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Gates, Percy||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Perring, William George|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Philipson, Mabel|
|Athol, Duchess of||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pielou D. P.|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Raine, W.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Grig, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.||Rankin, James S.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Berry, Sir George||Harney, E. A.||Remer, J. R.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hartington, Marquess of||Remnant, Sir James|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hood, Sir Joseph||Savery, S. S.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Burman, J. B.||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, Northrn.)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-In-Furness)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Stanley, Lord|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Clarry, Reginald George||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Lamb, J. Q.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lane-Fox, George R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Thomspon, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cope, Major William||Lumley, L. R.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||McCrae, Sir George||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||MacDonald, R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||McLean, Major A.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Waddington, R.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Martin, F. (Aberdeen & Kinc'dine, E.)||Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Meller, R. J.||Wilson, Colonel M. J. (Richmond)|
|Dixon, Herbert||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Duckworth, John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|England, Colonel A.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wragg, Herbert|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Ferguson, H.||Pease, William Edwin||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|FitzRoy, Capt. Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Pennefather, Sir John||Sir Kingsley Wood and Mr.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Penny, Frederick George||Hannon.|
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, in page 2, line 32, to leave out paragraph (d).
I am encouraged to ask for the deletion of this paragraph in view of what the 2320 Minister of Labour himself said on the previous Amendment. This paragraph places on the applicant the onus of proof to show that he is genuinely seeking for work. I am sure that there are many 2321 hon. Members who will have had a great many cases in which they have found the difficulties that the applicants have had to face in convincing the local unemployment committee that they were genuinely seeking work. There has been a good dead of discussion as to how applicants could prove that they were genuinely seeking work, and for a while committees were disposed to accept the documentary evidence which the applicants were supposed to get from the various employers of labour. Some of us have found in our experience that the local unemployment committees have been encouraged even to reject the claims of applicants who have been able to submit this documental evidence. I believe that the onus of proof should be placed upon the Ministry itself; that they should prove that the applicant for benefit is a work-shy. I believe that it is not right to treat these unemployed people as if they were all under suspicion. This paragraph says to each individual who is unemployed and who is claiming benefit: "You are under suspicion as a work-shy individual; you have got to prove to us that you are not a work-shy individual." I submit that it is the business of the Ministry to show that these individuals are work-shy by offering them employment which they are unwilling to accept.
When the Exchanges were set up, the purposes of the Exchanges were to co-ordinate the needs of the employers and the needs of the workmen; they were to bring the workman and the employers into touch with one another. To-day, however, evidently the Exchanges are not fulfilling their functions in any very large measure; and the consequence is that now the Ministry has turned round and said, "These Exchanges cannot do this: you, yourselves, somehow or other, have got to convince the local unemployment committee that you are seeking for work." Hon. Members may say that that is not anything very difficult for an unemployed person to do, that such a person can surely give a list of places to which he has gone and can easily tell the number of firms he has been at during the week. One of the best things the Minister could do at the present time would be to make these Exchanges function properly in regard to the various employers of labour. The Exchanges in a district could get into touch each day with the employers of labour and find 2322 those who were in need of the services of individual workmen, and then you would have got a real test of who were work-shy and who were not.
Personally, I have had many experiences of individuals honestly seeking work, and who could provide voluminous correspondence that they had been genuinely seeking for work; yet, because they were not skilled in making out their case before the unemployment committee, they found their claim for benefit rejected. We ought to give those people the fullest consideration, and it is the business of the Exchange, its real work, the work that these Exchanges should be doing, to put employers and these workers into connection with one another. I believe that if you were to do that you would be helping to solve the problem of unemployment in a way that is not possible under present circumstances. Accordingly, I hope that the Minister will see his way to give over to these Exchanges the burden of bringing the worker into relationship with the employer, and if the worker does not take the job offered, then there is a good case for refusing his claim for benefit. Otherwise, I submit his claim for benefit should be allowed, and for these reasons I have moved the deletion of this paragraph.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am going to support the deletion of this paragraph, and I shall support my hon. Friend if he presses his proposal to a Division. I support this proposal because of the action of the Labour Minister in connection with the miners in the county of Durham. This paragraph saysthat he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment suited to his capacities and is willing to accept such employment.Practically the Ministry of Labour have said to the Durham miners, "You must take and accept employment even if it is in another county." It has been found impossible for old men to find employment in the county of Durham and yet the Employment Exchanges have said to them, "Leave your wives and families and get lodgings in another county." With the wages paid at present in the mining industry it is not possible for these old men to find work and pay lodgings in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire, and at the same time keep a home going in Durham. I have received this week a communication from one of our 2323 miners' lodges providing me with two recent cases, and I will read them to the House because they put the matter in a nutshell, and they show the sympathy they are receiving from the Minister of Labour. The first is the case of a man named George Chipchase, and the secretary of the miners' lodge writes:Chipchase is a widower with three children. He was offered work at Doncaster (Yorkshire). He refused to go on account of no houses being available as the housing shortage was very acute in that area. Morally he did not think it proper to leave his children at this end and go to lodgings. His benefit was stopped for six weeks commencing on 6th March to 7th April. We appealed against his benefit being stopped and attended Darlington before the committee, and they upheld the decision of the Exchange authorities in withholding payment for six weeks.Because this man would not leave his home and take on work in Yorkshire they stopped his benefit for six weeks. I say that that man had a right to unemployment benefit, and it was a most cruel thing on the part of the Employment Exchanges to stop that man's unemployed benefit for six weeks. The second case I will give is that of a man named Wilsher. The communication I have received from the miners' lodge says:Wilsher has a family of seven, with wife and self a total of nine. Wilsher's case is similar to the previous case. He was offered work at or near Doncaster and refused on the same grounds as Chipchase. He appeared before a committee at Bishop Auckland and his benefit was stopped. This is the eighth week without any payment being made to him and his last payment was received on 8th May, and he has received no benefit up to the present. This man had to sign his hand to have his case judged by a committee composed of a solicitor and a secretary.In view of these facts I think we are entitled to complain of the unsympathetic action of the Minister of Labour, and the way he has treated our miners in the county of Durham. The persons I have mentioned are entitled to the unemployment benefit, and those are not the only cases, for I could cite others which have occurred in which the Employment Exchanges have said, "Get away out of here and find work in another county," and because they have not been able to do that they have had their unemployment benefit stopped. I want to know whether that sort of thing is going to continue. May I point out that the miners last year paid into the unemployment fund no less 2324 than £6,000,000, and they have only got out of it £1,250,000. We have been told that there are now so many thousands less on the unemployment funds compared with last month, and when one reads those figures we have to think of the number of men who have been put off in the way I have described and who are entitled to unemployment benefit.
I want to ask the Minister of Labour whether he is prepared to stop this kind of action on the part of the Employment Exchanges. I also want to complain of the unsympathetic action of the Minister of Labour, for it seems to me that there is no sympathy at all for these men in that Ministry. We are dealing with case after case sent to us of men out of work who are fully entitled to the unemployment benefit and do not get it. We might as well never send our cases to the Minister considering the answers we have been getting. We received last year from the Minister of Labour far more sympathy than we are receiving this year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come over here!"] No 1 shall not come over there. We were led to believe that under a Labour Government a new spirit would be breathed into all the Departments. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have got it!"] Yes, but it is not the kind of spirit we want. What I am saying applies not only to the Minister of Labour, but to the Minister of Pensions as well. We want our Labour Minister and the Minister of Pensions to breathe this new spirit into their Departments, and not allow themselves to be dominated by the permanent officials. We want to have this new spirit so that the men who are entitled to this benefit will not be treated as they have been treated during the last few weeks.
§ Mr. SHAW
I cannot accept this Amendment. I have discovered a rather remarkable thing. I knew from what has been said by hon. Members opposite that they thought I was capable of squandering State money on unemployed persons, but now I have been told that I am the hardest-hearted person who ever entered this House. I wonder if the truth lies somewhere between those two statements. At any rate, both of them cannot be true, and I must be free of one of those accusations. What is proposed by this Amendment? It is proposed to delete a paragraph which provides that a man under certain circumstances, having 2325 received benefit for a considerable time in proportion to his contributions, must show that he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment suitable to his capacity, and that he is willing to accept such employment. Surely there is nothing wrong in that requirement.
Do my hon. Friends who have supported this Amendment realise what I am doing by this Bill? For the first time in history, by means of unemployment insurance I am attempting to pay continuous benefits. The greatest harm that could possibly be done in regard to this fund is that it should be used for improper purposes, and that men should make themselves pensioners on the Insurance Fund. If that occurs, then the workers themselves will smash up the scheme. I am seriously trying hard not only to give every genuine workman the benefit so long as he is unemployed, but I have to make sure that my scheme will stand it, and that the conditions I lay down will be sufficient to guarantee that no undue advantage will be taken of my scheme. The question of individual cases is one that can be discussed under better circumstances and in better conditions than on an Amendment like this. The question as to whether the Labour Minister is not as sympathetic with regard to individual cases as his predecessor does not arise in relation to this Amendment. It may have something to do with it in a roundabout way, but the connection is very remote. I am prepared to discuss those individual cases and it is not a fact that any instructions in any way have been given to the Employment Exchange officials to take up the position that they must, if possible, get people off the benefit list. Neither am I prepared to accept the accusation so often made that local committees use their functions for the purpose of depriving people of their benefit who are genuinely entitled to receive it.
§ Mr. SHAW
It may be quite true, but I want proof before I accept the statement. These committees are composed of representatives of employers' and workers' organisations. On every local committee there are trade union representatives, and I am not prepared to accept the statement which has been made without proof that these trade union representatives are not doing their duty. I must first have 2326 absolute proof that trade union representatives are guilty of such conduct, but whether they be guilty or not has nothing to do with this Amendment. The point is whether it is reasonable to say that under the conditions I have laid down, when a man has drawn benefits in proportion to his contributions and he is still drawing benefits, he should showthat he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment suitable to his capacities and is willing to accept such employment.6.0 P.M.
I think that is a perfectly reasonable condition to make. Where is there a society of any kind whatever where the onus of proof does not lie upon the man making the application? I know before a trade unionist gets his benefit he has to prove that he is fully entitled. I am not willing that the benefits of the Fund should be given to a man whether he is entitled to them or not. Still, I cannot enter into a discussion with my hon. Friend on that point. I am getting a little bit tired of the superior person who thinks that in him and in him alone virtue resides, that he alone truly represents his constituents, and that everybody else is neglecting his duty. So long as I remain a Minister, I shall consider it my duty to represent those who cannot speak for themselves. A Minister is in a difficult position, and, if I am going to play my part, I must defend the civil servants against whom attacks are made. I must also defend my fellow trade unionists on the local committees, and I shall do so until it is proved that they are not doing the things they should do. I hope when I leave this House to-night to go to Scotland and see for myself what the circumstances are, for I will not accept as a fact the accusations made against either civil servants or trades unionists until I have proof. I ask the House to come back again to the Clause, to discuss it on its merits, and see what the issues are. Nothing is of more vital importance to this scheme than that the administration of the Fund should be above all suspicion.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I hope my hon. Friends above the Gangway will not think me impertinent if I venture to give them a word of advice. They propose to take out this provision as to a man proving that he is making every reasonable effort 2327 to obtain employment in a suitable capacity and that he is willing to accept such employment. The Mover of the Amendment, of course, did not say or mean that he ought not to make every reasonable effort. What he did suggest was that the onus of proving that he is doing so should rest not upon him but upon somebody else. The final test would, of course, be for the local authority to offer the man a job. If this paragraph be struck out, make no mistake about it, you will get the situation to which my right hon. Friend has drawn attention, and some people will say—some who have contributed to the fund—that you object to a man making every reasonable effort to obtain employment. Believe me, the final test, whether a man is genuinely seeking employment, is to offer him a job. Reference has been made to the fact that the miners appear to have paid into this fund a great deal more than they have taken out of it. Of course, if they have not got out of it what is their due, it is up to them to see that they do get it, but I rather object to the growing tendency to look upon this fund as a sort of slate club from which one takes out as much as be pays in. That is not the principle of insurance. If there be a scarcity of jobs, let me suggest that the employers should play their part and send to the Ministry any vacancies they have. If the Minister of Labour is put in possession of such vacancies, then, if a man comes to him and says he cannot find work, he will be able to reply, "I have here a suitable job which I offer you." That is the only way in which to deal with these matters. During the time I was Minister of Labour I made an appeal, not with very great success I admit, to employers of labour to make more use of the Employment Exchanges.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GREENWOOD
Is it true that employers of labour do not send their vacancies to the Exchanges when they have any to fill?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not suggest that they do not. I am only putting it that I wish they would send more. If it be suggested that a man is work shy, then the only way to deal with him when he tells you he cannot get work is to offer him a job. By that means only will you be able to administer this fund properly. 2328 All the employers of labour have to do is to play their part, and then they will find the fund will only get into the hands of those for whom it is intended. If a man refuses a job when it is offered to him by the Minister, he can be deprived of the benefit of the fund. I appeal to hon. Members not to press the Amendment, as insistence upon it might lead to a good deal of misunderstanding as to their position and do them a very great injustice.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to press on the Ministry the desirability of accepting the Amendment, the true purport of which I think the right hon. Member for North Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) has not appreciated. It is a proposal to delete paragraph (d) only. It is not proposed to delete the whole section. Paragraph (a) puts the burden of proof on the applicant that he is normally seeking to obtain a livelihood by means of an insurable employment. Paragraph (b) lays it down that at normal times such suitable employment is available for him, and under Paragraph (c) he has to prove what oportunities he has had for obtaining insurable employment during the period he has been unemployed. He has, in fact, to prove before he is entitled to benefit all these three things which are covered in the pargraphs I have mentioned in a general way. We do not want to remove the general principle from the Insurance Scheme when we are looking after the interests of the working classes, but we want to take away from the local manager of the Exchange, or from the local committee, the power to use Paragraph (d) in the way it has been used in the past to keep down the total number of people receiving benefit at the Exchange. Time and time again we have come across cases of that nature.
If the Minister will excuse me for saying so, I do not think he was right in adopting the attitude he did towards my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), or my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), nor was he justified in treating the subject in such a heated way. I want him to see the matter from the point of view of the applicant and not merely of the Ministry. Every week end, when we go home, we have hundreds of our fellows in our constituencies talking to us about cases that have arisen at the local Employment Ex- 2329 changes, and we find that these men have established a claim for the unemployment benefit, and that the officials being unable to urge any other reason for turning them down, have decided to deprive them of their benefit on the ground that they are not genuinely seeking employment, although they have presented heaps of certificates from employers to whom they have made application. One need not assume that we are casting any reflection on the Civil Service generally, because we happen to be defending the working classes against the attacks of those who are in a somewhat sheltered position. If one does sometimes abuse the manager of the Employment Exchange it is more frequently the case that that manager, or one of his subordinate officials, says abusive things about the poor devil who is seeking to get the benefit. I have in my constituency a big number of men who have been unemployed for four or five years and who have as much difficulty in getting assitsance from the Employment Exchange as the proverbial camel finds in passing through a needle's eye.
As between one Employment Exchange and another, there is the widest divergence in the number of people who are turned down under this Clause. The Employment Exchange in the Gorbals Division is not more than half-a-mile from the Exchange in my own constituency, yet the numbers turned down in my constituency are relatively much fewer than the numbers turned down under this Clause by the Employment Exchange in my hon. Friend's Division. I can only conclude it is because when I approach the Employment Exchange officials in my Division I have been uniformly polite to them, while possibly the hon. Member for the Gorbals Division has been more brusque. I think the Minister should ensure something like equality of treatment in the Employment Exchanges over the whole country, so that a man in the Bridgeton Division may have the same chance of getting the benefit as a man in Durham or Yorkshire, or any other part of the Kingdom. There should be one general standard for the whole country. If the right hon. Gentleman will agree to the deletion of this particular paragraph he will still have, under the remainder of the Section, very wide powers in the administration of the fund. But if he is going to stick to the point of 2330 view he took just now, I would seriously urge upon him to try by administrative means to ensure that paragraph (d) is used only as it is intended by Parliament to be used, and that it shall not be used as a sort of last defence by the official who wants to keep down the expenditure of his particular Exchange to the lowest possible point, and who, whenever he cannot find any other excuse, alleges that the applicant is not "genuinely seeking employment." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that the Clause is used fairly, and not as a weapon of attack against the unemployed.
§ Mr. SHAW
I can certainly give the assurance asked for by my hon. Friend. While I desire that no man shall get the benefit to which he is not entitled, I am determined that no man entitled to benefit shall be deprived of it by the machinations of anyone. I will do all I can to see that the intentions of Parliament are given effect to, and to secure that this particular Regulation shall be properly used.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am sure the House will be gratified to hear the statement the right hon. Gentleman has just made, because there is undoubtedly some substance in the matter the hon. Members behind have brought forward. I have some experience in connection with Employment Exchanges, and the difficulty arises in this way. Very often a particular manager, or a particular committee, holds the view that unless an unemployed man can bring forward some documentary evidence that he has been seeking work his claim must be disallowed. I have known cases in which a man has joined up in a queue seeking for work, but has never reached the employer. Then a man may go to an employer and may be refused work, and the employer will refuse to give him any document in writing that he has been there. Those are the sort of cases that raise the difficulty which has been quite rightly put forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who is generally very expert and informative, gave a very easy solution. He said the matter would be solved if the employers would notify the vacancies to the Exchanges. That may be so, but if he will go to any Employment Exchange they will tell him there are not the vacancies 2331 to notify, and that is the difficulty. If there were these vacancies and the employers notified them, and there was all this work about, we should not have this difficulty. While I could not support an Amendment which takes away the test altogether, I say that undoubtedly in certain cases an unduly harsh view is taken of the obligations which a man has to satisfy before he can say he is genuinely seeking work. For that reason, I hope the Minister will put into action the promise he has made.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, at the end, to insert the wordsFor the purpose of paragraph (d) of this Sub-section:The production of certificates from employers certifying he has made application to them for work shall be accepted as proof of such 'reasonable effort.'I want to know, if the Minister is not prepared to accept this Amendment in the body of the Bill, whether he is prepared to send it out as a recommendation to the Employment Exchanges. The Employment Exchanges demanded some written proof that a man was genuinely seeking employment, and when asked what proof they would accept they said a certificate or voucher received from the foreman to whom the man had applied for a situation would be taken by them as a genuine guarantee that he had applied for a situation. After the man had gone to that trouble and the foreman had been considerate enough to write out a note, the Exchange officials and local committees turned clown these certificates and said they were no use whatsoever. Will the right hon. Gentleman now either accept the Amendment or send it out as a recommendation that these certificates shall be recognised as proof that the man is genuinely seeking employment?
§ Mr. SHAW
I am going to ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment in the interests of the cause he has at heart. I am afraid, if we get this Amendment in the Bill, it will tend to stereotype the demand for a written document, and as I know, from complaints which have been made to me over and over again, a man genuinely seeking work goes to different firms and asks for a ticket of some kind to show that he has been, and they say it is no business of theirs to give him tickets, and he cannot get them. When the Bill is through it is my serious intention, as soon as I get the time, to go into this matter thoroughly. There have been a large number of complaints, and I want to know what the truth is. Having ascertained it, I will take such steps as will lead the local committees and everyone concerned to give due consideration to the case and to make it known that the primary business of committees and of everyone concerned, including the Exchange officials, is to do justice to the men.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, in page 3, line 12, after the word "section," to insert the wordsif he has been employed for more than thirty hours on not more than three days in any week for which he claims benefit or.This is to prevent unemployment benefit being paid for the second three days in the week where overtime has brought the amount of time worked in the first three days of the week to 30 hours or more. The idea is, that it would be unfair to the other contributors to the scheme if men were paid under those circumstances.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NALL
I beg to second the Amendment.
It has come to the knowledge of some hon. Members that in certain cases where men are regularly employed only three days in the week, and in those three days perform overtime so that they work some 48 or more hours, they are entitled to unemployment benefit for the other three days in the week. That seems to me contrary to the intention of the Act and entirely unreasonable. If a man is able to earn his ordinary week's wages in less than a full week, it ought not to be necessary for him to draw unemployment bene- 2333 fit. I hope the Minister will accept this Amendment and put an end to what is clearly a very grave abuse.
§ Mr. SHAW
I am going to ask the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Amendment to withdraw it. I agree that if men are working in three days what is equivalent to a full week's work or more it is quite wrong to attempt to get from the Insurance Fund benefits for the remaining three days, but I am advised that administratively it is a practical impossibility to apply the Amendment. A case has been stated to an Umpire on this point and I hope we shall get from him something which will be helpful, but if we put this Amendment into the Bill we simply cannot work it. Anything that can be done administratively, or under the Umpire's decision, to prevent abuse will be done, but the cases are so difficult that they could not be dealt with by means of this Amendment. I give the advice I have received from my advisers. I thoroughly agree with it, and I ask for the Amendment to be withdrawn, not because it is wrong in principle, but because it is not a method which can be adopted administratively with success.
§ Viscount WOLMER
We are willing to receive the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, but I do not think he has in the least explained why it is impossible. The words can be put into the Bill. Does he suggest that the committees would have difficulty in interpreting them? They appear to be perfectly plain. At any rate, they might be of some use as a safeguard against abuse. The right hon. Gentleman ought to explain why he regards the working of the Amendment as impossible.
§ Mr. SHAW
There are cases which it would be extremely difficult to deal with under the Amendment. It would be extremely difficult to administer in the case of an engineer doing repairs at a mill. I am quite in accord with my advisers that it will be impossible to attempt to apply this, because it will mean an amount of investigation and of questioning which would throw the whole of our administrative machinery out of gear.
§ Sir J. NALL
Is the House to understand that, as the Acts are now drawn and the Bill is intended to be passed, an insured person will be entitled, whatever action the Minister may take administratively, to receive benefit in these cases? I think it is the situation at present that no kind of administrative action can be taken, because a man is legally entitled to benefit although he has worked 48 hours. Cannot it be adjusted in some way so that the benefit may be governed by the number of hours worked and not the number of days?
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
As I understand it, the Minister is taking steps administratively to do what he can to prevent benefit being drawn in these cases. Under what power in the Acts is he taking steps to do that? I can imagine that there may be cases where he cannot enforce it because the difficulties are too great, but there, I think, the House would readily say we do not expect the impossible to be done. We certainly do not want an enormous staff of officials for this purpose, nor do we want reasonable cases held up for fear that you may be letting a few cases of that sort through. One will always trust any responsible Minister to use his discretion about that. What the House does not quite understand is what powers the Minister possesses which he can use in order to try to avoid these cases drawing benefit. If he has such powers, perhaps he can point out the Section of the Act. If he has not those powers, would he not be well advised to take those powers, on the clear understanding that he will administer them as well as he can? Of course, certain cases will be bound to get through. We want to make sure that the Minister has the power to do the best he can in the circumstances.
§ Mr. SHAW
The power that I possess is the power that has been exercised up to now. The law as it stands is that every day must stand by itself. If a man works four hours one day, or 12 hours one day, that is one day, as the law now stands. I do not think there is any doubt as to the justice and the spirit underlying this Amendment. It is to prevent men in collusion with their employers from working an extraordinary number of hours on less than six days in the week and claiming benefit for the remaining part of the week. Any- 2335 thing that I can do, administratively, to stop that, will be done, but until the decision of the umpire is given I cannot exactly say what are the powers of the Ministry. There are certain things that must be decided extra-Ministerially. Any questions of doubt as to the law go to the umpire. This matter has been before the umpire. That is all the information I can give to the House in addition to the information I have already given. I am advised by my advisers that the amount of investigation and the amount of staff required to conduct these investigations, having regard to the huge amount of casual and short-time labour that prevails now, would be so great as far to outbalance the amount that we should gain by stopping one or two individual cases of this kind.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I do not understand what it is that the right hon. Gentleman is sending to the umpire. He says he has to get the umpire's decision as to what the law is. He tells us that the law as it stands to-day is that, if a man is in work for one day, it does not matter whether he works four hours or 12 hours, it counts as a day. If he is at work for three days, working 10 hours a day, equally the law as it stands is that he draws benefit. In that event, what is it that is going to the umpire? The umpire may decide that the law is as the Minister says it is, in which case the Minister will have no power to stop these cases. It is common ground between us that we want to stop these cases where we reasonably can. The Minister now has a chance of making the law what we want it to be and to put it into this Bill instead of waiting for what the umpire may decide. I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman will be prejudiced by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There is something in the argument that if a man works 50 hours in a week on two or three days that man ought not to receive benefit for the rest of the week. On principle, I think it is right for a man to be deprived of benefit when he only works four hours in a day, but in that case you cannot argue the other thing when it is against you. You say to the man: "We must have a definite statement of what a day is." You go to the man who may work six 2336 half days in a week or three full days and you say to him, "You are not entitled to any benefit." That is where it hits the man. When the man works overtime you then want the Act again to operate against the same man.
In my own trade I have known a man to work for six weeks continuously short time and he never received one penny of benefit. He then had a week or two idle, for which he was paid benefit. Afterwards he proceeded to work for two or three days, 40 or 50 hours. That man had been for six weeks deprived of benefit through working short time, when, possibly, the House would have agreed that he had a good case for benefit. When he works overtime you want to quote the Act against him. There is a case which is not uncommon which arises at the beginning and end of a week. The week starts on the Monday and finishes on the Saturday evening. During the week a man works overtime, say on Friday and Saturday, or on Saturday and Sunday. The overtime may count part in one week and part in the next week. It would be impossible, administratively, to get at that man.
This Clause affects comparatively few. Nearly every trade union has taken steps to safeguard its position. We have to remember that we are dealing in this matter largely with trade unions who pay out benefit, and that for nearly every sovereign of benefit we pay the trade union is paying 5s., 10s., or 15s. The trade unions will not pay benefit to men who are working overtime and taking the bread from the mouth of some other man by that means. Nearly every trade union takes steps to safeguard their members in that connection. The Minister of Labour at the present time has committees dealing with the question as to whether a man is looking for a job. Why should he not send this question to committees of that kind for them to decide whether the man is entitled to benefit or not in these cases. If we are going to make a change, why not send it to these Employment Exchange committees so that they may deal with the question?
§ Mr. SHAW
I regret to say that I must ask for this Amendment to be withdrawn. Again, I have consulted my advisers, and their advice is that the administrative work that would be involved in trying to deal with the eases 2337 under this Amendment would be so great that it would be likely either to mean a huge accession to the staff, or the holding back of the payment of claims until investigation has taken place. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asks me on what grounds we go to the umpire. We go to the umpire to decide as to whether this is genuine work as understood by the Act, and whether these men are genuinely available for work on the days on which they do not work. The umpire will have a chance of investigating the circumstances, and I am sure that if he found that there was collusion between the employer and the employé to work an extraordinary number of hours on three days in the week in order to leave the works idle for the remaining three days, there would be no doubt about the umpire's decision. As to the main lines of the law, that, generally speaking, each day is to count for itself, there can be no doubt.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
In cases which I have in mind there is no question of collusion between the employer and the employed. The complaint comes from the operatives who are working alongside the people who work these extraordinary long hours and then accompany them to draw equal unemployment benefit. The men in these particular cases have to work overtime to finish up their work on certain machines, and the complaint is that while the ordinary worker only works 10 hours a day these other men who have worked 14, 15 or 16 hours a day go to draw unemployment benefit on the remaining days of the week, although they have worked, perhaps, 40 or 45 hours in three days any week. There is no question of any collusion of any sort between the employer and the employed and, therefore, that question cannot go to the umpire. The question as to what can be referred to the umpire seems too indefinite. In the Act, as interpreted by the Minister, there is nothing that can go to the umpire in the particular case that I have referred to. I recognise the desire of the Minister to meet the ease and to make inquiries. I recognise also that there are great injustices in the cases referred to by the last speaker, and therefore I suggest the Amendment be withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.