§ Mr. COMPTON
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
This Clause seeks to take away from the unemployed people of the country certain rights which were conferred upon them as statutory rights under the Act of 1924. When that Act was going through this House we did not find any real objection to it on the ground which is covered by this Clause. On the Second Heading of this Bill, during the Committee stage, no proof was produced of any abuse of the particular right which was conferred by the Act passed last year. We on these benches feel that to take away a statutory right, and to place in the hands of any Minister—admirable gentleman though the present Minister of Labour may be—a discretion in this matter is something which is dangerous not only to the individual concerned, but to the whole community, and especially to the unemployed people. These powers are sought by the Minister and we regard with very grave concern indeed the proposal that they should be allowed. 678 Furthermore, this Clause will, in our opinion, deal very harshly with a certain class of people whose income at the present time is limited to a very low degree. We are cognisant of the fact that almost 300,000 men have been added to the unemployed live register since about this period last year. In addition, we are cognisant of the fact that these 300,000 do not give the total increase in the number of unemployed since that period. That most objectionable Circular, issued by the present Minister of Labour on 19th February this year, has been the means of removing many thousands of names of unfortunate people from the unemployed live register and turning them over to the Poor Law. We maintain that the increase in the number of unemployed is greater than that shown by the statistics supplied to us. The Minister has not produced one single argument in favour of this Clause being the means of reducing unemployment in any shape or form. As a matter of fact, we feel that it will have the opposite effect. Therefore, I repeat that it gives an opportunity to the Minister or to his Department to impose hardships upon certain individuals in the community who are already sufficiently depressed by the anxious days and weeks in which they have been seeking employment which is not to be found in the country.
There is one reason which the Minister has given, and it is a reason which does not in any sense appeal to Members on these benches. He says that through the present Unemployment Insurance Bill he hopes to effect a saving of about £6,500,000. Under Clause I, the deletion of which I have moved, he expects to effect a saving of £1,500,000. I ask hon. Members opposite to ponder well upon what a saving of £1,500,000 from the small pittance given to men and women, many of whom have for years trudged the streets of our cities and towns in search of employment which the present industrial system has failed to provide, will mean. We object very seriously indeed that these people should be called upon, not only the men who have suffered in health and stamina, but the unfortunate victims who cannot fight their own battles, the women and the children, to suffer this hardship. We know of instances where teachers have given their mid-day meal rather than endeavour to teach children with empty stomachs.
679 It may be that this sum of £6,500,000 will not be found to be a great hardship when spread out, as it will be, over such a large section, but that is not at all the point. Although the sum may be small in itself, it does not affect the real feeling which this Bill, if carried, will create among the people of this country. There is among the poor people in the country a great amount of sympathy with those who are in worse circumstances than themselves. Working people cannot stand aside and see starvation in their midst. We know that the Minister is engaged elsewhere on a very important matter, but, if it had been possible, I should have liked him to have been present to hear what we have to say with regard to this Bill. The Act of 1924 imposed a statutory obligation upon the Ministry of Labour. That was found necessary because of what happened during the life of the preceding Government in the year 1923. The Parliamentary Secretary held a similar condition under the then Minister of Labour, and I hope on this occasion he will convey to the present Minister of Labour the remarks that I am about to make. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in the last Conservative Government, Sir Montague Barlow, sought powers in this House, whereby, as a Minister, he could deal with unemployment in a certain direction. Sir Montague Barlow has passed into the political wilderness. Although some months previously he had a majority of several thousands, he lost his seat, and I say that it was the sympathetic feeling of the workers in that particular constituency, having watched the effects of the administration of certain powers which the Minister had taken upon himself, that in the main caused that reversal and turned the Minister of Labour out of this House. Personally, I have no desire to see such a fate befall the present Minister of Labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] He is an admirable fellow in many ways. I hope, therefore, that the Minister of Labour, or the Parliamentary Secretary, will seriously consider the effect which this Clause, if carried, is likely to have on the feelings of the people of this country.
There is one thing which must always be borne in mind. The people of the country, whether employed or unemployed, must be fed, and, if you turn 680 them from the Employment Exchanges and refuse them the benefit to which they are legally entitled, then you are only turning them on to the Poor Law, and thereby shifting the burden from the taxpayer to the ratepayer, who in the present circumstances is already overburdened. It may be that there are many members in this House who do not come into contact with their constituents as some of us on this side of the House do. Many of us on these benches live in our constituencies. Our constituents know that we are at home week after week, and therefore we are not only forced to visit them but they call upon us and we hear the details of their daily life week in and week out. I can therefore assure hon. Members opposite that, if this Clause be carried, it will undoubtedly cause such irritation in the minds of the people of this country as will shake the foundations of the present Government.
This Clause also seeks in my opinion to take an undue advantage of those whom we should try to encourage in so far as the payment of unemployment insurance is concerned. Young men entering industry are forced to pay contributions at the age of 18. The Minister may utilise his powers to refuse benefit to a young single man who happens to be living with his parents. That is not only a gross injustice on the young man himself, but it is a bigger injustice on his parents. What will be the position of a miner with his 5s. per week trying to maintain a family if he is to have an able-bodied adult son forced upon him and invited to maintain him because he has been deprived of his benefit? What will be the position of the working engineer whose wage to-day is very little better than the wage of a miner? These men have sufficient worry and trouble to maintain themselves on their miserable wages, and they ought not to be called upon to bear this extra burden which the Ministry seek to impose upon them. These young men have paid their contributions, willingly and unwillingly, and, by every canon of the law, they aee entitled to their benefit. If by a majority of the Members of this House such powers are placed in the hands of the Minister as will deprive them of their benefit, then we shall not only be doing an illegal thing but something that will shake the very 681 foundations of the proper administration of justice from one end of the country to the other.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so without making any attempt to repeat many of the arguments that were stated in opposition to this Clause upon the Second Reading and during the Committee stage. As a matter of fact, some of those statements are almost unprintable, because this is the most iniquitous Clause that the Minister could attempt to re-introduce into national insurance, particularly in view of the fact that it is a re-imposition of the position that applied prior to the 1924 Act. We are assured that under this Clause the Minister will economise in industrial insurance to the extent approximately of £1,500,000. Consider the position of the unemployed worker who, for an extended period, has been out of work, and compare the Vote yesterday, of many millions of pounds to useless purposes, with the fact that we are here asking for something that is going to protect human life, not merely of the unemployed worker himself, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Compton) has very ably said, of the women and children who will also be affected. That £1,500,000 may be used for other purposes, but it certainly cannot cover up the sorrow and suffering that will be caused and the disgrace that will fall upon the Minister and his Department for the action which they are taking in bringing this Clause again into operation.
It is, I believe, admitted by the Minister himself that his discretion under this Clause will cover some 300,000 of the 500,000 now in receipt of extended benefit. What a calamity in the homes of those men who have known what long periods of unemployment and destitution mean. What a calamity for men who have experienced all the difficulties of unemployment, and, as they say in the North, "whose children clem for something to eat," to have this forced upon them at the discretion of the Minister. To the 101 Regulations that are already in operation whereby unemployed workers have been deprived of benefits is now to be added the discretion of one man and one Department to take these benefits away from unemployed workmen. On the Second Reading of the 682 Bill, I was disposed to criticise the Minister for using the phrase that extended benefit was insurance upon credit, simply because the unemployed worker at some future period when in employment would have to pay his contributions to the insurance scheme. That is all the more reason I should say why under this Bill he should have something upon credit, because he has the onus imposed upon him that he must pay contributions at a later stage to provide for other unemployed men.
What is the alternative if this Clause is put into operation? The only alternative is that thousands of men will be forced upon the Poor Law. That is maintenance upon credit, because he will have to pay not, only his share of rates under the Poor Law, but when he gets into employment he will have to pay his share of the contributions for the benefits that he never receives and of which he is being deprived by this very Clause. We are on the verge of winter, when the suffering is going to be more terrible than it would be during the summer months, and I want to put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that, in imposing such a burden on the unemployed workers, he should carefully consider our second Amendment, under which he would at least have six months to think over this proposition and to find out the opinion of the common people of the country as to what he is doing, before he makes any attempt to justify such a position and to maintain his attitude upon the question. It may be all very well in the light of what has been promised to reduce benefits under unemployment insurance, but if this Clause is carried it will react upon the Ministry, in spite of the huge battalions which support it in this House. I hope that representatives of industrial constituencies who sit on the other side of the House, will indicate their opinion and the opinions of their constituents to the Minister. Leaving aside altogether the question of the men who are unemployed, at least hon. Members should consider the women and children who are bound to suffer and who are to be asked to extend their present suffering, while we have had no intimation during the Second Reading Debate or the Committee stage that the Minister is prepared sympathetically to consider either delaying or abolishing this iniquitous Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question I have to put is "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'shall,' in line 9, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. SPENCER
On a point of Order. I understood that the next Amendment—in page 1, line 6, at the beginning to insert the words "as from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six—was to be taken.
§ Mr. WIGGINS
I rise to support the Amendment. I strongly object to and protest against the removal of the rights given by the Act of 1924 for extended benefit. It is true that according to the actuarial report this is going to "save"—that is the word used by the Minister in the Committee—£1,500,000, but that money is going to be taken from the unemployed persons and is not a. saving to the Government fund. Further, it does not affect to any extent what the Government may have to pay. It is simply done to reduce the deficiency fund—so we are told. Now the deficiency fund to-day stands at something like £8,500.000. We are told it must be reduced, but it has stood at a higher figure than that in times gone by and the world has not come to an end, nor has the British Empire ceased to function. We protest, at this time when trade is bad and unemployment is rife, against an attempt to wipe out or reduce that deficiency when doing so means extreme suffering to people who are unemployed, and have been unemployed for a long time. We also object to the proposal that the Minister should have power to say who shall and who shall not have benefit. We do not believe that it is right for the Minister himself or his Department to have that power. It is not right nor good that any one man, however wonderful or beneficent he may be, should have the power of deciding who shall and who shall not receive benefit. Parliament which makes the laws, should decide from top to bottom, and from side to side, on what ground a man is to be entitled to benefit, whether standard benefit or extended benefit. In any case, the Minister himself will not be able to decide. He may lay down certain regulations and rules but these will have to be worked out by officials in the country and rota committees.
684 I am certain from my knowledge of the working of the Old Age Pension Act that no rota committee desires to have these inquisitorial duties once more placed on its shoulders. They hate such methods. They cannot help but hate them if they have any idea of other people's rights and privileges. The Minister, of course, has to judge of the circumstances of the case and the expediency in the public interest. Who is he going to wipe out? If this Clause is going to make a saving of £1,500,000, someone has to suffer to that extent. Who will the sufferer be? We tried to get to know in Committee upstairs, but our efforts were in vain: We had the suggestion that largely the money was going to come from young men and young women whose parents were able to keep them. But what right has the Minister to take away from anyone that for which they have paid? It may be argued that a commercial insurance company could not carry on with a huge deficiency like this. We agree, but we take it that when the Government introduce an Unemployment Insurance Bill the Government have the privilege of allowing a deficiency. Surely the Government have not arrived at the conclusion that the present period of bad trade represents the normal condition in the future. It would almost appear that they had come to that conclusion, and that they felt they must do something to prevent this deficiency becoming unwieldy. I suggest that this country is not yet finished or played out and that these people whom the Minister is going to deprive of extended benefit will, when they get work, have to help to pay off that deficiency.
The deficiency does not cost the Government anything. It is, I admit, financed by the Treasury but the Treasury charge interest to the fund, and that fund some time or other will have to be repaid and cleared off by the unemployed people themselves. It is true that this Bill in other Clauses gives something, but what is the genesis of the Bill? We can gather from what has been said that there have been complaints by industry of the burdens placed upon it by the new Pensions Bill, and that these are to be met by a reduction in the contributions to the unemployment insurance when the deficiency is wiped out. This Bill by the reduction of contribution gives the employers 685 £3,250,000 or £3,500,000, but I am certain that while industry wants its burdens removed it does not want them removed at the expense of the poverty and distress of the working people. Unless we can maintain good feeling between the employers and workers, what good will industry be to anybody?
I put this point to the Under-Secretary as one which he must consider fairly and squarely. The workers under the Unemployment Insurance Act who are going to have their contributions reduced would never have asked for those contributions to bra reduced so that the rest of the people should be robbed of benefit, but that is what is going to happen. Under this Bill you are going to reduce contributions by £6,800,000 and benefits by £6,500,000. Who is paying for it? The portion of our community which can least afford to bear it. It is not the standard benefit that is in danger but the extended benefit, the benefit given to men who have been a long time out of work and who through no fault of their own cannot find work in order that they may keep body and soul together. I appeal to hon. Members opposite who represent industrial constituencies to use their persuasive powers to see that this iniquitous Clause, this unfair and inhumane Clause, is withdrawn.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I share the regret expressed by the Mover of the Amendment at the absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister. As the House is well aware of the cause of that absence, I will say no more upon it. I also acknowledge the kindly apprehensions which have been expressed as to the political future of my right hon. Friend and myself if we are rash enough to persist in this Clause. That risk, I can assure hon. Members, we are prepared to take.
The Mover of the Amendment and the hon. Members who followed him attacked this Clause on two main grounds. First, they attacked it on the question of principle; and, secondly, they attacked it because, as they say, its effect will be to press harshly and unfairly on those who come within its purview. With regard to the latter point, I think I can remove many of the apprehensions and fears which have been expressed. I am not suggesting that these are not genuinely felt, but I think they are ill-founded.
686 Before doing so, I wish to refer to the first part of the case which has been presented to us. Really, between hon. Members opposite and ourselves there is a wide divergence of opinion. Hon. Members opposite persist in regarding this fund as one which is not an insurance fund at all, but a compassionate fund on which we can draw at will. If you once establish the right of an insured person to draw something for which he has not paid, you are doing something wholly inconsistent with the principle of contributory insurance. I quite recognise that there are many hon. Members who say that you can have a non-contributory principle. That argument would be relevant in regard to a non-contributory scheme, but it is not relevant to a contributory scheme. Hon. Members speak of "rights." They say a man has a right to something for which he has not paid. A right against whom? Not against this fund, which is an insurance fund. We have to consider, not only the rights of those who make these claims against the fund but also the rights of those who are contributors to the fund. In considering the rights of the contributors, we are bound to retain some relation between contributions and benefits. Until last vear that was always the principle upon which this House had proceeded, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) last year altered the word "un-covenanted" to "extended" it did not alter the principle upon which this provision was founded. This benefit was called "uncovenanted" because it had no covenant or bargain to support it. You do not get over the difficulty by merely calling it "extended." When the great slump came in 1921. the then Minister of Labour realised that there were many persons who, by no possibility could have been expected to subscribe because the slump coincided with a very large increase in the numbers who came within the purview of the Act, and he instituted what we then knew as uncovenanted benefit. He said, in effect, a man should have benefit beyond the contributions he had paid, provided he satisfied certain prescribed requirements. In a second Act of the same year the words used were:If it appears to the Minister that having regard to all the circumstances of the case it is expedient in the public interest.687 That was the position up to last year, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston brought in his Bill, and he then made what was formerly a claim, depending upon the words I have just used, into a right. Having regard to the fact, however, that this is a contributory scheme, we have also to consider the rights of those who are the contributors to it, and we cannot accept as an absolute right the claim that persons should benefit in advance of contributions without being subject to the exercise of a discretion on the part of the Minister. The last speaker talked as if the Ministerial discretion, apart from this Clause, was not in the Bill at all, but, as a matter of fact, a discretion has to be exercised by the Minister on very many occasions and in many circumstances before this extended benefit is allowed, as, for instance, in all those cases under Section 1 of the Act of 1924 to which the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) referred. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) himself, in his Bill of last year, realised the inconsistency of a contributory scheme, unless you reserved a discretion to the Minister, in the case of the claims to benefit of those persons whose contributions did not otherwise authorise them to receive it. On this question of principle, there is, between hon. Members opposite and ourselves, this fundamental difference, which I do not pretend to hide nor wish to obscure, as to whether, in a contributory scheme, it is possible to make statutory and of right something which is not sup-ported by the contributions paid.
In regard to the second part of the case of the three hon. Members who have spoken, they dealt with what they regarded as the hardships which would be imposed if this discretion were given. The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. W. M. Adamson) said that, in his estimate, some 300,000 persons would be affected, but the estimate of the Minister is not 300,000 but 70,000, for the period between the date on which the clause comes into operation and the 30th June next.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
What does 70,000 mean? Does it mean the number of persons to which the Minister's discretion will apply in the Bill, or does it mean the number 688 to which it is his intention to apply his discretion?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this Clause was in all the Bills prior to his own Bill of last year. In that Bill certain instructions were given, and it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to give similar instructions now. The number of persons affected by the instructions given by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor was about 80,000 for a whole year, and so my right hon. Friend estimates that, approximately, 70,000 persons will be affected between the date of operation of this Clause and 30th June next.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman is just as able as I am to realise what this Clause does. I am endeavouring to explain to him what my right hon. Friend is proposing to do. He is proposing, as he has already told the House, to limit the exercise of this power, in the first place, to young single persons living with relatives who can support them. Therefore, the case put, I am sure in all good faith, by the hon. Member for Cannock, of a man with very small wages who would be called upon to support, perhaps, a considerable number of persons cut off under this Clause, is not a valid case, and his fears are really without foundation, because the Minister proposes, as I say, to limit it to single young persons living with relatives who can support them. Whether they can support them or not is, of course, a question of fact, which will come up for consideration before the rota committees, and the rota committees, to the value of whose services I pay a very sincere and real tribute, will, knowing the circumstances of the case, and knowing the local conditions, decide in each case whether, in their view, such single young person is living with a relative who ought to he able to support him.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I must reserve, and do reserve, the right of the Minister, if he thinks the rota committees are wrong, and is satisfied that they are wrong, to exercise his discretion. The second case which the Minister proposes to include is that of a married woman or man whose husband or wife is earning sufficient to support either the husband or the wife, as the case may be. There are many cases, undoubtedly, where a married woman, living with her husband, is at present drawing benefit, when the income of that household is as much as, or it may be far more than, the income of many of those who are contributing to this fund and drawing no benefit. The third case is that of short-time workers, whose incomings are sufficient to justify the withholding of extended benefit; and the fourth case is that of aliens. Therefore, it will be observed that my right hon. Friend has been most careful, in suggesting these classes with regard to which he will exercise his discretion, to avoid including those who may fairly be said to suffer the hardships apprehended by the hon. Members opposite. This question has been debated in this House in my hearing, certainly twice or three times, and we have had, of course, a very full discussion of it upstairs in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It was certainly discussed when the right hon. Gentleman brought in his Bill last year; it was discussed the other day on Second Reading, and I think the point is so clear that, although I do not expect the party opposite to agree with me, I think the House will have no difficulty in deciding to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. SHAW
If the hon. Member will permit me to say so, we have heard another of the extraordinary speeches that have been delivered on this Bill, and particularly with regard to this Clause. It seems the most difficult thing in the world to get to know from the Government exactly what they mean, and, if one may be paradoxical, it is more difficult still to get a reason for what they mean. We are told that this applies to 70,000 workers. I assert that the Clause withdraws from a quarter of a million people a right to benefit, and places the granting of that benefit absolutely in the power of the Minister, and I challenge the hon. Gentleman to deny the statement that I make when I say that a quarter of a 690 million people come within the powers of the Minister if this Clause be passed; and it is not treating the House with the frankness that the House deserves to use the figure of 70,000 when the power given in the Clause extends at least to a quarter of a million.
There is certainly a great difference between the two sides of the House, that is, if hon. Members opposite support the Minister in principle. We did discuss this in Committee, and I want to call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that from the beginning to the end of the Committee stage the only speech that was made from his side, with the exception of those by the Minister and himself, was an apology for the Bill and a declaration that the Tory party did not like it any more than we do. A more extraordinary Committee, I venture to think, has never sat; a more extraordinary display of lack of knowledge of what the Bill is has never been shown; and certainly a more extraordinary display of lack of frankness has never been manifested in this House.
Now I will pass to one or two more of the things the hon. Member has stated with regard to this Clause. He says that the Unemployment Fund must not be looked upon as a compassionate fund, but he forgets, I think, what we have said so often, that the nation has a responsibility to these unemployed people, altogether apart from any contributions they pay, on the ground that many of them fought for the country in the War, and were promised, when they came, back, that they should be attended to. We are not prepared to accept the argument that this is an ordinary insurance concern, run in normal times for normal purposes at all. We say that this Government has a responsibility to these people. There has been another year of suffering since 1924, and the Government is absolutely unable to help the unemployed. Unemployment is much worse than it was at this time last year, and instead of the Government, in view of its failure to deal with the unemployment problem, coming forward and saying, "At least we will try to help the unemployed," it is coming forward and, by this Clause, making the position, not what it was in 1923, but worse, for while the Government wants to take away the right that 1924 gave, it leaves the obligations on 691 which that right was conferred in this Bill, and makes the present position of the unemployed worse than it was in 1923. After another year of unexampled unemployment, after a crass failure to deal with the situation, the Government actually proposes not to relieve the unemployed because of its failure to deal with the problem, but to make their position worse.
The Government appears to be in this position. It says: "We cannot help you to get work, but we must do something, so we will hurt you because you are out of work." That is what is proposed in this Clause, and particularly in Clause 3 of the Bill, and not a word of justification of it was uttered by a single member of the Committee, outside the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary.
I have dealt with the numbers affected, and may I now deal with the principle. What the Minister says he intends to do is not at all what the Bill says he intends to do. What he says he intends to do is to take rights of benefit away from people who are paying in exactly the same way and have exactly the same liabilities as the people to whom you will be paying the benefit. Was there anything in insurance ever so mad as that? It is the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard. The young people, who are the best assets of this scheme, are the people who are to be refused benefit while their next-door neighbour will be paid benefits, after having paid the same amount of contributions as have been paid by the other man. That is what this Clause intends to do. The only excuse for it is that it saves one and a-half million pounds. There can be no other excuse. It is the only excuse which has been adduced. It does not save one and a-half million pounds to the Treasury funds. I wish my right hon. Friend had told us what it means to the Treasury. Suppose I suggest to him that the Treasury will not save more than £400,000 by this, I wonder if he will accept my figure? It is easy to calculate it. The Treasury contribution—I am speaking in round figures—to this one and a half million pounds is only £400,000, and for that £400,000 what do the Government intend to do? They intend to make young men and women spongers on their parents, 692 parasites on working-class families, all for the sake of £400,000. It puts these young people in the position—and every working man and woman knows it—that is likely to prevent them getting married when they are ready to get married. In a working-class family the present rule is that a boy or girl of a certain age pays his or her full wage into the family exchequer, but on reaching a certain age that young person becomes a boarder, paying a certain sum per week to his parents. That is the only opportunity the parents have of ever getting in their life anything like real comfort and of putting a little bit away for a rainy day. You stop benefit, and what is the result? The result is that the young nun or woman falls on the parent for board. When they get work they start under a staggering load of debt, which may take years to wipe off. That is what you are doing to save £400,000. It is the greatest humbug in the world. You save £400,000, but you can spend innumerable millions on other things. To save £400,000, you are willing to put numbers of young men and women into a state of chronic debt and to destroy their independence by making them bound to get into debt and they become parasites on their families.
I never in the whole course of my Parliamentary experience heard a more paltry proposition this this. I never knew a meaner or a more unfair proposition. Why should A, who is living next door to B, and paying exactly the same rate, be refused benefits while B gets them? Can anybody give a reason? Not only is the process unfair, but how are you going to administer this Clause when you get it? In every individual case you have got to have an investigation as to whether the family circumstances are such as will justify you in refusing the benefits. Was there ever a worse example of bumbledom since the world commenced? What you will get is this: that the decent people will suffer because they will not stand your infernal inquisition, and those that you consider not decent will get the benefits in spite of it. You are penalising the best portion of our population, and you are doing it for a saving which to the country is infinitesimal.
I cannot understand the frame of mind of the Government. Frankly I admit 693 that there is such a gulf between us as to be apparently unbridgeable. Have we forgotten everything we ever promised to these young men? All you are trying to do is to see that working-class families shall not get too much money. That is the broad, salient fact of this matter—to see that they do not get too much, to keep them down, to screw them if you can, and, if you get any money out of it, so much the better. I think that in doing this you are committing, not a sensible act, but a crime. You are injuring the nation and taking away a right which ought not to be taken away. You are treating people differently who are paying in exactly the same way, and you will make the people who are most likely to pay off your deficits, pay the deficit that has been incurred, although they have been refused the benefits which have caused the deficit.
There is another class of people who will apparently be hit, in addition to the young men and women. You talk of aliens. I know exactly what the alien question means. It is the biggest piece of spoof and humbug ever perpetrated in the House. I am sorry to see a responsible Cabinet Minister, at least one, who sits in the present Cabinet, went so far as to write at least one article which was glaringly incorrect from beginning to end and showed an absolute lack of knowledge of what the circumstances were.
§ Mr. SHAW
Then we are told that short-time workers are not to be paid. Who is the short-time worker who gets paid? It is the man who generally loses at least half his week's wage and because taking an average wage in the country, he earns £1 a week, he must have no benefit! As I have said three or four times in these discussions, I should like to put every Member who supports this Clause on £1 a week and keep him there. Then in three weeks we should have the majority of those Members opposite on this side and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be seeking a position in the Army at Moscow.
§ Mr. SHAW
We should have a revolution pretty quickly. To sum up, we cannot accept the explanation the hon. Gentleman has given as being what the Clause means. It gives the Minister power to deal with a quarter of a million people and the right absolutely to refuse them benefit. It is no use saying to us that it means 70,000. If the right hon. Gentleman meant 70,000, he should have put 70,000 into his Bill. But he did not. He put a quarter of a million in his Bill. It is unjust because it refuses to one man the benefit it pays to another in exactly similar circumstances. It is bad for the morale of the people, because it makes young people parasites on their parents. It is bad because it will land them with a staggering load of debt, for every working man who has gone through it knows what it means, and that debt will lay on them for years to come. It is particularly ungenerous, because the unemployed are entitled to better and not worse terms than they were getting. It is particularly ungenerous on the part of a Government which is absolutely incapable of dealing with the problem and is helpless and hopeless before it, and which comes forward not to help on but to destroy even that which the poor has. It is bad because it will prevent the young man or woman, who ought to get married and who wants to get married, from getting married. It will prevent young people from setting up their homes and land them into conditions in which their difficulties will be increased tenfold—all for the saving of a miserable £400,000 a year! And that is the first result of the work of this beneficent Conservative Government, which, instead of taking the right way to help the unemployed, comes forward and proposes, literally to rob them.
We do fundamentally disagree with this Clause. We make no appeal, and I personally am making no appeal to the Government. A Government that can propose a Clause like this under the circumstances and with the unemployment we have, is beyond the pale, and the Clause itself is, if I may say so, beyond contempt.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has drawn the attention of the House to the fact that no back bench Member on the Government side was prepared to defend 695 this Clause in Committee upstairs. I can assure him that it was no lack of courage or conviction on the part of the Back Bench Members on this side of the House that prompted them not to break the silence. It was far more the consideration that it would be less waste of time if the Labour party obstructionist tactics were given free play and allowed to perish of their own futility.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think it is rather dangerous to go into the proceedings upstairs. I was a little afraid of it from the other side, and I cannot allow it from any quarter.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I raise this point of Order? The hon. Gentleman stated that there were certain obstructionist tactics upstairs. Is not that a reflection on certain Members of a Committee and on the Chairman? Apart from that, I was one of the Members upstairs, among several of my colleagues, and we resent very much the suggestion that all we were working for was obstruction.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
On that point of Order. May I remind the House that the Labour party cannot truthfully and sincerely complain of being charged with obstruction, for when the Bill was last before the House, the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) closed his speech with these words:We shall do everything in our power when this Bill comes to Committee to obstruct it and prevent it from becoming law in any shape or form.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has given a very good illustration to strengthen me in my original purpose not to allow any discussion on the proceedings upstairs to take place down here, where we are supposed to have no knowledge of them.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I apologise to the hon. Member. I was not reflecting upon him, but paying a tribute to the ingenuity of hon. Members opposite. I listened to him, and to the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment. Having done so, the conviction is borne in upon me that they base their argument on three utterly fallacious assumptions. In the first place, they assume that the cases of standard 696 and extended benefit are exactly on a par; in the second place, they assume that the employment of the Minister's discretion will operate harshly in respect of those who have no other resources to fall back upon; and, thirdly, they assume that insurance is not an exact science—to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself, that insurance can be anything you care to make it. As far as I can determine, the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make it a perfect farce. He and his Friends say that there is no sanctity inherent in the principle of insurance. That is where they are wrong. That there must be some ratio between the contributions and the distribution of benefits is a precept of insurance which is as incontrovertible as the laws of the Medes and Persians. It is perfectly true, as Members on the other side say, that if the Government desire to secure to the individual worker either work or maintenance free gratis for nothing, it is competent for them to do so; but that is not insurance. I am well aware of the attitude of the Labour party on the subject of unemployment. It is that unemployment should be a State charge, that the worker has got an alternative claim: he can claim that the State shall give him work, and if that work be not procurable, he shall have maintenance. But that is not what we are discussing now. That is not what we are concerned with at this moment. We are debating the merits of an insurance scheme, and insurance to be insurance must be based on certain actuarial foundations. It has to be, even in the case of an ordinary insurance company which has colossal reserves upon which to fall back. How much more is it so in the case of the Government, which has no such reserves?
After all, the Socialist Government never brought in a work or maintenance Bill, a Bill which, I believe, was in the old original Socialist programme. So far from bringing in a Bill of that complexion, they not only recognised the principle of insurance, but introduced an Insurance Bill of their own, and so gave a Labour cachet to the principle of insurance. Once you recognise the principle of insurance, you have to recognise the existence of the actuary. The right hon. Member for Preston, when in office, did recognise the existence of the actuary. Now he affects to regard the 697 actuary as the Mrs. 'Arris of the Ministry, and affects to believe that there is no such person. We know there is. It is very noteworthy what an important part the actuary plays in the business of Government at the present time, and whenever the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Labour is engaged in our proceedings, the actuary seems to hover over our deliberations. I suppose to the Labour party the actuary appears in the guise of some unwholesome bird of prey, who will swoop down and snatch up their most cherished arguments. The Government Front Bench probably regard him as a tutelary divinity. Personally, I regard the actuary as a quite unsentimental person, very useful, and one who knows move about mathematics than some hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. SPENCER
May I ask how the hon. Gentleman can explain Clause 4 of this Bill if he is arguing for a scientific insurance?
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I am arguing about Clause 1. I should be completely out of order if I dealt with Clause 4. We on this side of the House are absolutely convinced that it is in the interests of the unemployed worker himself that there should be some connection between the right to draw benefit and the contributions themselves. It is quite true that you conferred a right in the last Parliament upon those who drew extended benefit, but that right was absolutely meaningless and artificial. The right to standard benefit is founded on law, equity, and common sense. The right to draw extended benefit in the last Parliament was merely founded on a desire to please a certain portion of the electorate, and I am not sure that it had that effect. We have already distorted the principle of insurance almost beyond recognition by grafting on to it extended benefit. I quite agree that, owing to the abnormal industrial depression, it was very necessary to do so, but, as a consequence of having grafted it on, it is very essential that the Government should reserve powers of discretion and discrimination.
The Labour party affect to believe that the administration under this law is going to be drastic. Have they read anything of the account of the Swedish Unemployed Commission? If so, I think they will have changed their tone. That Commission is possessed of almost dictatorial 698 powers, and practically independent of its own Government. It fixes the amount of benefit, controls relief works, and even has powers—and, I believe, exercises them—of reducing wages. That Commission has been attended with absolutely phenomenal success, and has been able to witness the return of Sweden almost to her pre-War prosperity. Yet here when an insurance Minister says that a scheme shall be founded on sound insurance principles, Members opposite say it is tyrannical, and will deprive the working man of benefits to which he is entitled, and that it will remove the burden from the Exchequer on to the rates.
That brings me to the other fallacy on which the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have based their argument, that these persons affected by the discretion of the Minister are just those whom the guardians have no business to assist. The right hon. Gentleman said he deplored the fact that this is going to make young men sponge upon their relations. Is that any worse than making them sponge on the Insurance Fund; in other words, making them sponge on their fellow-workers? There is another point. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the young man who could not afford to get married, but if he got married, he would no longer be able to come upon his family. [Interruption.] I should like the Minister to deal with that point. I am certain the Opposition is labouring under a misapprehension in regarding this extended benefit as a right. It was a concession in the first instance. I was very much impressed by an observation that fell from the Minister of Health in the course of discussion on the Widows' and Orphans' Bill. He complained bitterly that he never obtained any gratitude for a concession. All that happens is that you incur blame for not making the concession wider, or not granting another. It is always the same thing—"This is a small point; surely the Minister can accept it." Apart from the fact that it is going to involve a sum of £1,500,000, hon. Members opposite must realise that these concessions are being asked for day after day in this House on every single Bill, and all these small concessions added together, and reduced to pounds, shillings and pence, are going to represent a very formidable sum. The Deficiency Fund at 699 present has a deficiency of £8,000,000 a year, and, unlike the ordinary insurance company, the Government have no reserve upon which to fall back, or, at least, the only reserve is the taxpayer, and the taxpayer has to find the reserve not only for this fund but for every fund, and every Government debt, commitment and obligation.
Hon. Members opposite have boasted that they are considering humanity rather than finance. It is just because we are concerned with humanity that we are considering finance. This is one of those cases where the interests of the individual and the Treasury are one. We have no less solicitude for the working man than have hon. Members opposite. This Bill is not going to deprive any honest working man of his charter. This Clause is not a retrograde Clause. It is a step in the right direction, in which we all want to go, namely, the solvency of the fund. That, of course, will be to the interest of the worker. For that reason, I do not regard this Measure as a retrograde one, but as a step in the right direction, and I believe if the working man does not appreciate that already, he will learn to appreciate it, and then he will realise that this Measure is guided by wise policy. For the time being, no doubt, hon. Members opposite will find it far easier to impress their audiences with the wicked cruelty of the Tory party. We on this side are not looking, at the present moment, for cheap popularity. The kind of improvident and profligate policy which they suggest is just as much open to us, but we are prepared to sacrifice temporary advantage for the ultimate good of the whole community. It is because of my firm belief that it is for the ultimate good of the whole community that I am going to support this Clause.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) is a very apt illustration of the Minister's statement that there is a very wide gulf existing between us on these benches and hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. He is a type of superior person, and, to my mind, has never known what real material poverty means, and it would do him, and some of his colleagues, a great deal of good if they were to undergo, 700 not for a week, but for three months, six months or 12 months, the heart-breaking experience of an unemployed man. This would be particularly the case if he were married, and had a wife and two or three little children, and saw his home gradually disappearing, bit by bit, to the broker's shop, or breaking up under the stress of wear and tear; if he found himself absolutely unable to—
§ Mr. CADOGAN
What has that got to do with whether or not this Clause should be passed? [Interruption.] The hon. Member has not heard what I said on some of these points.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I should like to point out, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we have heard arguments of that kind put forward by the hon. Gentleman before, and we expect to hear them again. The hon. Member must put up with our reiteration. For many years we have had to hear repeatedly more of the other side's statements than our own. As I say, what the hon. Gentleman said is an indication of the gulf that separates us. He talks about the taxpayers. His sole regard is for the taxpayer. The taxpayer is not to be regarded in this matter.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The only thing the Government falls back upon in regard to this matter is the consideration of the taxpayer. That is not my point of view.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
If hon. Members will address their remarks to me, instead of to one another, we shall get on better.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I shall do so. I should like to deal with the explanation given by the Minister. I want to discuss the whole of this Clause. This is the vital Clause in the Bill. Once this Clause is passed, the Bill, so far as we are concerned, is practically dead. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, no!"] So far as we are concerned. There are lots of other points, but the Minister made very great play with the discretionary powers of the Ministry in conjunction with the Rota Committee. One would believe a little more in that direction if the Ministry always accepted the advice of the Rota Committee. As a matter of fact, nothing of the kind happens. The Rota Committee may advise the Ministry, but the Ministry have discretionary powers to refuse that advice, given by the men on the spot. That is the difficulty, and the hardship—and there is a great deal of it—contained in this particular Measure. The young man or the young woman may be residing with parents at a time when no hardship will be incurred, because the Rota Committee has advised that where the father and the mother are in a position to maintain the son or the daughter who is unemployed they shall do so. But one has to consider that you have got 90 per cent, of the working people of the country at the present time whom you are leaving with a wage which does not guarantee them a decent livelihood. As a matter of fact, 90 per cent, of our people are abjectly poor.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The average wage in this country for workpeople is £3 a week, and that is not a living wage when prices are what they are. A living wage is at least £5 a week, and everybody who is not getting that is, from my point of view, actually poor.
We have from one end of the country to the other, villages and districts, all kinds of men who are working three days a week, and it will be interesting to see how the Minister will regard this. Is a man with three days or four days a week able to maintain a son who is unemployed, and will the latter be refused unemployment benefit? In the area that I have the honour to represent, in addition to the thousands of men who are totally unemployed, there are thousands more who for the last two or three years have 702 been continually on short time. Not only does that apply to the coal trade, but it applies to the cotton trade. You will find that many of the men who are working short time will have, it may be, sons who are following the same occupations as the father, and the son may be out of work entirely. Under the powers of this Bill the father will be called upon, I suppose, to maintain the son, while the Minister tells us that the Rota Committee will advise as to what is to be done. I should be pleased to know whether or not the Minister always accepts the advice of the Rota Committee composed of those who are on the spot? It appears to me that this Bill is an attempt to penalise the men who are suffering through no fault of their own. I could understand the general position and the whole Bill better if this proposal was the effect of causes which the sufferer himself was able to control. As a matter of fact, the people who are suffering and who come under this Bill are suffering, not from causes which they can control, but because of the breakdown of the system of control by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is their miscalculation which has brought many of these to the pass in which they are at the present moment. On the Second Reading of the Bill I described it as an endeavour to escape from the difficulties created for the Government by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The sufferings undergone by the people who are enduring unemployment now is a result of causes which they themselves cannot possibly control. This Bill is going to punish people who are already penalised by a system which they cannot control. Unemployment itself is a penalty. Men have been penalised and are bearing the burden of a badly-organised industrial system, and are going to be punished still further because they have fallen under the ban of society so far as the breakdown of the industrial system is concerned. The whole thing is such a monstrous proposal that one is surprised that it can find supporters in any part of the House.
Another point I want to mention is this. The unemployed man is one of ourselves. We do not regard him as a subject for scientific disquisition. I am afraid that hon. Members on the other side regard the unemployed man more in the 703 nature, to use a common term, of "a damned nuisance" than anything else. That is what he has become so far as they are concerned. Their one hope is to get shot of him at the earliest possible moment—if they possibly can do so. We cannot be expected to accept that point of view. The Government had a chance last October. They have the biggest majority of recent times, the biggest majority that the Conservative party have ever had in this House, so, at least, the Prime Minister himself boasted. He said his power was greater so far as his majority went than that of any other Conservative Prime Minister in this House before his time. They claimed they could deal with this matter. They claimed that they had the power by which our industrial struggles would cease. Instead of that happening, they have gone from bad to worse. Now, owing to their incapacity they are punishing the people, those whom they should have helped by every means in their power. The proposal before us. is a most dastardly proposal, a thing to be condemned by every right-thinking person. When I heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) give a scientific disquisition upon the value' of the actuary so far as unemployment figures are concerned, well, I realised then how great is the gulf between himself and myself.
I am not concerned about Government Departments. I am not concerned with the saving of half a million. I am not concerned as to whether those connected with the Treasury can save six and a half million pounds to-day to pay for the Government's infernal naval programme. During the next seven or eight years we are going to spend £58,000,000. We are going to save an almost equal amount, year by year, to enable the Government to pay for their naval programme. The unemployed are going to pay for the whole of the ships. The rich people want a Navy to protect their possessions and investments abroad, and, by heavens, they are going to spend the sum of £8,000,000 a year on the Navy to protect those investments. They are going to extract the money by subjecting the unemployed to starvation. That is what it comes to in the end. The people who receive the least, and who get the least out of society, are going to be made, out of the savings of their miserable payments 704 to the unemployment fund, to pay for the Navy for the defence of the possessions of hon. Gentlemen who represent the possessions, the finance, and the Imperial power of this country. It is a grotesque perversion of what ought to be the facts of the case. Instead of the strong defending and helping the weak, it is the weak that comes to the rescue of the strong on every possible occasion.
From this point of view I think no apology is necessary for the action which we propose to take by opposing by all means in our power the infamous proposals made by the Conservative Government. It is no use the Prime Minister saying what he does. He is not here. I suppose he is trying to exercise a little, bit of his sentimental powers upon some others. Although he may be able to do it with this House, he will find it is not so easy to do it with those outside and when it comes to getting down to brass tax and finance. If he were here he might be trying to persuade us to go a little more in the direction of peace, of all sides working together. You cannot do it by continuing this Bill. You are not going to get it by means of the Government proposing a Bill of this kind. So far as I am concerned the Government shall have no peace of mind, and no comfort of soul while the condition of the people remains what it is. To arrive at that peace the Government will have to pursue tactics very different to those employed in this most iniquitous Measure.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I shall not detain the House very long but, perhaps, I may be allowed to make some passing remarks. I want, if possible, to exert my persuasive eloquence on the right hon. Gentleman. I did it upstairs in Committee, but failed to make any headway. Having now the opportunity I am bringing some of these matters before the House to see if they will receive any more consideration they they did upstairs. May I again appeal to the Minister of Labour seriously to consider what he is doing by the suggested propos Is in this Clause 1 As my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) has pointed out, a young man living with his parents is sponging on his parents, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite said that if he were not sponging on his parents, he would be sponging on his fellow workmen. While 705 he was in work he was contributing to the unemployment insurance fund, and he ought to be entitled to relief from the fund to which he has contributed.
I would ask the hon. Member opposite, whoso lines have always lain in pleasant places, what alternative the young man has who does not sponge on his parents? No self-respecting young man would do it, but he must either sponge on his parents or go on tramp. That means that he has to tramp night and day, taking advantage of Poor Law institutions, or commit a vagrancy or a felony and run the risk of being locked up. The law lays it down that you may sleep in a ditch, but if you get through a hedge to lie under a haystack, you are a trespasser, and if you pull up a turnip from a field to satisfy the pangs of hunger, you are a chief. So the only alternative the man has is to go into the first casual ward he comes to. Some of us on these benches have been there. In return for the hospitality of the soft side of a deal plank bed and of a basin of skilly in the morning, he has to perform a task of work that takes so much time that he has no opportunity to look for work elsewhere; and so he goes on and on and on, day after day, becoming an undesirable. That is what the right hon. Gentleman's Clause is assisting to do.
The next question I have to raise is in respect to short-time workers, who are among those who will be deprived of benefit. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the short-time worker? Why, the man with half a day's work a week. He has to pay the full amount of his contribution for unemployment insurance benefit, even though he may do only half a day s work, but because he is a short-time worker he is to be deprived of benefit. The right hon. Gentleman used a rather peculiar phrase. He spoke of "A young man living with his parents who are able to keep him." I have looked in vain through all the Acts dealing with unemployment insurance to find those words used anywhere. Supposing we take it as the right hon. Gentleman put it. I would like him to tell the House how many working-class parents are able to keep idle sons. You are making it more difficult every day, every week, every month, every year. The wages of the working classes have been reduced by £600,000,000 in three years, and the ten- 706 dency is for them to go down and down and down. What is the definition of "able to keep him?" Even if parents were, is it just and right and humane to expect people who are living from hand to mouth, with only a small weekly wage, to bear the extra penalty of keeping an idle son in the house? When he was in work the son was contributing to the. unemployment insurance fund.
In any well ordered State a man or woman willing to produce and to add to the wealth of the country would be an asset instead of a liability. Under present conditions many of them are a liability, deprived of the opportunity of earning a livelihood. Under the conditions prevailing to-day it is almost impossible for those of us who believe in constitutional action in this country to persuade our men that it is any use at all. Every day irritation, suspicion, aye, and rebellion are growing in this country owing to the action of the Government at present in power. The warehouses are filled, but there is no demand for the goods that have been produced, and so the workers are told to get out, because there is no work for them. They have no money to buy the food or clothes or goods that their labour has produced. I want to warn the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues of the seriousness of this question. Every step they take is making constitutional action in this country more difficult every day. We are living on the thin crust of a volcano which one of these days will burst and blow us all to blazes if we are not very careful.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
The on. Member who spoke from the other side made excuses for this unfortunate Clause on the ground that we must stick to the insurance principle in this Measure. If that be so important, why have the Government reduced the contributions? If the fund will not stand for its obligations, that is no ground for reducing contributions. Throughout its history this insurance fund never has had a chance of working on a sound actuarial basis. The 1920 Act brought in 8,000,000 of new workers, and almost immediately afterwards, as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us, a period of depression came over the country, throwing a strain on the fund which was never contemplated under the original Act. If that Act had 707 been founded on a sound actuarial basis, provision would have been made in it for a contribution from the State in order to provide a reserve fund to meet these exceptional obligations. The obligations are entirely abnormal, being due to the War, and therefore could not be properly reckoned as an ordinary insurance risk. It would have been perfectly sound finance for the Government to recognise the national responsibility which attaches to them and to the country owing to the abnormal unemployment, and to have made provision for it.
Apart from that, I submit that there is not the difference between standard benefit and extended benefit which hon. Members opposite seek to draw, inasmuch as in a short time, when trade becomes normal, the insured workers themselves will, by increased contributions, have paid off the deficiency which has been created. It is only a question of actuarial computation as to the increase necessary to provide for wiping off the advances made from the Treasury. Therefore I submit that this is an insurance fund, and that, apart from that, the State itself is not bearing its fair share. To make the excuse that we cannot provide these benefits because the Fund will not permit it, though having previously ordained that the contributions shall be on a lower basis than is required, is not treating the question fairly from an insurance point of view.
Apart from that, what reason is there for making this change in the 1924 Act—apart from the paltry question of finance? As the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench showed, it only means £400,000 a year to the Treasury. Has not the 1924 Act worked well? Have there been abuses? Has the benefit been unfairly administered or has the administration led to people not seeking work, and to some of those other evils which are sometimes foreshadowed as arising from a distribution of public money? We have had no details from the Government showing that there has been abuse in its administration. A few days ago an interesting and informative report was published by a body of economists and business men who have made a special study of the working of the Insurance Act. Two years ago they 708 produced a report entitled, "The Third Winter of Unemployment." A year ago they produced another report on the working of the Insurance Act, entitled, "Is Unemployment Inevitable?" and now they produce another report based on a careful investigation into the working of the Insurance Act. That report shows conclusively that it has been fairly administered, that it has not had any demoralising effect, and it has not in any way diminished the incentive to work. They made careful investigations in eight of our large cities, and found that those abuses which are sometimes feared by hon. Members on the other side had not been experienced. There is conclusive testimony that men are more anxious to keep in work than they are to seek unemployment benefit, and after that careful investigation there is complete justification for retaining the Act in its present form.
The present time, when we are approaching the fifth winter of severe unemployment, when all the resources of individuals and of localities are exhausted, is not the time to stiffen things up and make administration more difficult. An hon. Member who spoke from the other side said it was not fair to assume that there would be harshness in administration by the Minister of Labour. We all know that he and the Parliamentary Secretary are men of kindly and humane sentiments, but we have to deal with the facts as we find them, and our experience of the working of the Insurance Act, as we are brought up against it in our constituencies, shows that, despite the most sincere desire on the part of the Minister to administer the Act in a humane fashion, there are glaring cases of harshness and injustice to be found throughout the length and breadth of the land. Every week when I go down to my constituency, I am met with numerous cases of the most apparent injustices, inconceivable cases of refusal of benefit. It is no good saying that according to the Regulations this or that will not be done. We know as a fact that very severe injustice and very great hardship have been inflicted on thousands of people, and if that has been so with the discretionary power which the Minister has had under the 1924 Act, there will be more of it following the attempt he is 709 making now to exercise his waiver over a much larger number of cases. I submit that this is not the time to exercise this tightening up of the administration of unemployment benefit, because whatever is saved to the fund is purely a specious saving, and those who are denied benefit have to seek it from boards of guardians and local funds. I know it has been stated that they would not receive assistance from the boards of guardians, but that statement has no relation to the fact. Those in touch with their constituents know that these people do go to the boards of guardians, and those bodies are compelled to help them because they cannot allow them to starve. The fact that representations have been made to the Government from boards of guardians protesting against the curtailing of unemployment benefit under the Act shows that they fear that their local rates will be heavily mulcted by this Measure.
Appeals are being made from many local authorities in necessitous areas for some relief of the burden of the rates. We have been told how industry is being crippled by heavy rates, and appeals have been made to the Prime Minister to do something in this direction in order to relieve our struggling industries. Now we are asked to do something which will add further burdens to the local rates and place further burdens on industry. It is an exceedingly foolish thing at the present time for the Government to inflict this injustice on so very many people. The report which I have referred to, which was issued by the business men and economists who investigated the working of the Insurance Act, shows that the statement that the granting of these benefits affected the willingness to work was not true, and they found practically no cases of fraud or abuse, and the experience of the-Employment Exchanges throughout the country shows that there were very few cases of this kind in different parts of the country. In the face of that evidence I think it is simply folly, when trade is bad and likely to be worse, to seek to burden localities and individuals by proposing such a change as will be brought about by this Clause. Is it worth what will be gained by tightening up this Act when it will cause disaffection and a big sense of injustice among so many hundreds and thousands of people? It is a very foolish policy to 710 make these cheese-paring savings at the cost of so much injustice and discontent. The working of the Act of 1924 has been more than justified, and there has been no cause of complaint and no abuses have been brought to the notice of the House. I think in this matter the House of Commons ought to re-establish its faith and belief in the working of the Act of 1924, and not adopt the arbitrary powers which are contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. MARCH
I want to add my word of protest against this Bill, and I support the deletion of this Clause. We have heard from the Minister that the Government are now studying the rights of the contributors, but I would like to know from the Minister whether he has had any large body of contributors making complaints against the contributions which they are paying. We know that the employés are willing to pay their contributions to support the unemployed. It was the Government who came along and set up this- unemployment insurance without asking the workers whether they agreed with it or not. It was the Government who said you will have to pay certain contributions into this fund whether you like it or not, and they also laid down that the man who does half a day's work a week has to pay the same contribution as those who do a full week's work. Invariably it is the man who has a short time at work, and who is on casual labour, who very rarely receives the benefit he is entitled to simply because of the regulations laid down by the Government. The rules and regulations which have been made by the Government enforce contributions from these men, and then the Department seem to do their best to make Regulations in order to see that the men do not set the benefit. We have been told by the Minister this afternoon that the Minister of Labour is going to use discretion in regard to the young men who are living with their parents who are able to keep them. We have heard one or two statements as to what is likely to happen in regard to these young men. Probably if a young man has got any spirit in him at all he will not desire to stop at home to live on his parents under those conditions, and if they did they would not be living very comfortably together for long. It is quite possible that the Government have got in their mind that 711 there is not enough young men joining the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force, and they think this is a good way of driving young men into the Navy and the Air Force. With regard to young girls, many hon. Members opposite have said, Why not put them into domestic service? Possibly the Government may have an idea that you will drive the factory girls into service, but if you do the mistresses will very soon drive them out again because they do not know much about household duties. Then the Government are going to deal with the women who may have their husbands at work. I take it that in many households if the husband was earning sufficient money to keep the house as it ought to be kept you would not have so many married women in the factories and workshops.
If the husband happens to be earning some money an investigation and inquiry is made into the income of the household by the rota committee, and if they think that there is not enough money coming in to keep the family respectably—I do not mean in comfort by a long way, because you have to go a long way with regard to wages before many of the workers can live in comfort—and enable them to live in decency and respectability then these persons get extended benefit; but that cannot be granted until the Minister of Labour reports, and even then the Minister has power to use his discretion. The consequence is that you have weeks of waiting before the people can get this extended benefit, and invariably they are driven to the boards of guardians where there are sympathetic people administering the Poor Law, and then the boards of guardians get into trouble, not in regard to the Minister of Labour because it comes under another Department, namely, the Ministry of Health, and then the Minister of Health has a word to say. The boards of guardians are told that they must not give assistance to a young man or a young woman if there is a certain sum of money coming into the house, and all that has to be taken into consideration, and if you are not had by the Minister of Labour you are had by the Minister of Health, and the workers are had all the time. I certainly think it would be interesting to a very large number of workers if they 712 would only read or have the opportunity of hearing speeches like the one which has been delivered by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), because possibly a large number of workers in the Finchley district would not then be rushing to vote for their present representative. There are many districts in or around London in which there is a majority of working-class people, and if they would only read and listen to what is being said by hon. Gentlemen opposite on this subject there would not be quite so many misrepresentatives as there are on the other side of the House at the present time.
I want to add my quota to the protest with regard to casual workers. In the district which I have the honour to represent we have large ship-repairing yards which everybody knows have been very slack for years, in fact we have had a slack time for the last four or five years. A very large number of people rushed into my constituency during the War to do work of national importance, and they were not asked to come there by the residents in my constituency. They came there because so many ships needed to be repaired and munitions were needed, and therefore we were inundated with people from every quarter to carry on the work of national importance. As soon as the Armistice was signed and there was a little quietening down, those people were thrown out of employment and they have been with us ever since, and they have been a great burden upon the district. We often heat from hon. Members that this should be made a national question. I wonder how many times the Tory party and the Liberal party when there was an Election have said in their programmes that the unemployment question was not a local but a national question, and that the nation ought to look after those people. Now he has a now idea, and it is that the nation has no right to look after these people, and they ought to be forced on to the local authorities. This has been done to such an extent that the local authorities are bitterly complaining of their burdens. The unemployment insurance was set up on your own calculations, and based upon your actuaries' reports. After all insurance is a speculation, and if the speculation happens to go badly on your side why should you impose these heavy restrictions upon the 713 unfortunate unemployed? You are working this on the same lines as the friendly societies. If they ask their members to pay a certain contribution they join in, and we know many of them never receive any benefit from the friendly societies at all. Nevertheless they do not grumble at those who have been unfortunate receiving benefit. Insurance is a speculation which you ought to provide for, and you have no right to deprive those who have paid their contribution of their benefits, and more especially those young men and women who were expected to come along and take the employment of the older ones. Therefore, I think this is one of the worst Clauses that could ever be introduced into a Bill, and, on behalf of the unemployed and of the constituency which I represent, I enter my emphatic protest against it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
When I heard the last speaker say that this was one of the worst Clauses that could ever be introduced into a Bill, I could not help wondering whether he remembered that this very Clause was in operation on this day last year. It was in operation until the 1st August last year, and, therefore, was in operation for six and a-half months out of the nine months, during which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) was Minister of Labour. During that time, we on this side did not hear anything of the arbitrary cases of discretion referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and, in view of the fact that, if and when this Bill becomes an Act, the machinery will be similar to that which was in operation last year, I cannot help thinking that these cases of gross hardship of which we hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite are very largely figments of their own imagination. [Interruption.] All I can say is, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston must have used his discretion extremely badly if those cases were so hard during that period of six and a-half months.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
That is quite true, but this Clause was, in fact, practically permanently in operation, until the 1st August last year, for the many years during which Unemployment Insurance Acts have been in force in this country. With regard to the point that was made by the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) and others, as to the nation shouldering a larger portion of the burden due to unemployment, we all of us agree that it is a national burden, but I think hon. Members opposite rather forget that, of the total of some £50,000,000 that is now being disbursed, one-fourth, in round figures, is already paid by the State, and, so far from the State trying to shirk its burdens, if hon. Members will turn to page 4 of the Actuarial Statement they will see it stated that, so long as unemployment continues at its present level, there will be a total extra contribution from the Exchequer of £3,900,000. In these times, when money is pretty hard to find, £3,900,000, on the top of some £12,000,000, is a very fair extra contribution from the State, and that, surely, is the best answer to points of that sort. May I also just make a point, which I know in a sense arises on a later part of the Bill, but which, in view of the fact that the discussion has gone over a fairly wide field, I think is material now, namely, that the reductions in the contributions from employers and employed will amount to no less than £6,800,000 when this comes into operation on the 4th January, while the amount by which the benefits are to be reduced is, in round figures, £6,500,000, so that employers and employed will be between them better off to the extent of £300,000 than if this Bill had not been introduced.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
Yes; representations have been made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the heavy burdens placed on employers and employed in connection with the pensions scheme, and this will give some measure of mitigation to employers and employed in regard to their contributions. I am much obliged to the hon. Member for having given me the chance of making that quite clear.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
My only reason for mentioning that was that the discussion had gone over rather a wide field, and we have, of course, discussed the burden that is placed upon employers and employed. My last point is this: As is generally known, about a quarter of a million people would come out of benefit on the 30th September next unless some Bill had been brought in, and this Clause, to which so much objection is taken, will anyhow come to an end on the 30th June next year. It will, therefore, only be in force for a matter of ten and a-half months. Before that time we shall have the advantage of the Report of the Committee which is being set up, and, in view of their recommendations, modification may or may not be made in this particular Clause.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Before the House proceeds further, I may mention that I have received a request from the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) to find, if possible, a place for some further points, in addition to those that I mentioned at the beginning of the proceedings to-day, and I think we ought very shortly to come to a conclusion on this particular point.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
As far as that is concerned, if there is to be any limit on the discussion in consequence of any arrangement, we would rather no arrangement were made. We only wish to raise our points provided that every Member who wishes to speak on this Clause has his chance to do so.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I only mention it, because it is my desire to help the House to deal with all the points on the Bill.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
If there is to be any sort of limit, we on this side would rather take our chance than that anything should be done to limit in any way the opportunity of any man to speak.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Yes, certainly, and my remarks had reference to the possibility of a long sitting. If, to the ten points I had previously, I have now to add two 716 others, hon. Members will see that it will take until very long after Eleven o'Clock to cover those points.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I only want to say at this moment that we all feel that this is the most awful Bill that has ever been brought before this House, and, therefore, we want to fight it just as hon. Gentlemen opposite would have fought any Bill as to which they held the same views as we hold about this Bill.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
There is, naturally, a very strong feeling among the body of people who are directly concerned in this Bill, especially in regard to such a Clause as that with which we are at present dealing. We recollect what happened under the Labour Government when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) had charge of these matters. I have a clear recollection of the strenuous attitude taken up by Members on the other side on this very matter, and we certainly did make out, in our view, a very strong case for the position stated a little while ago by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). Notwithstanding the view expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for East Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall), we do not need to draw upon our imagination in regard to the hardships of these people. I think it was an unfortunate expression that was used by the hon. and gallant Member for East Lewisham. I am sure that anyone who is in close personal touch with the struggles in life's combat will know that a very small modicum of financial aid is of tremendous importance, and I say without fear of contradiction that those who are in close personal touch with these combatants in life, who have to face such tremendously adverse circumstances, are bound to realise that the situation is of a momentous character.
There has been undoubted evidence of confidence in the Committees that have adjudicated and I think the proposition put forward by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough will be accepted, that there has been no complaint about the allocation of the benefits. The period of 10½ months to which reference 717 has been made includes the winter period, and, if we get a very severe winter, the conditions of which we are speaking become all the more exacting. I feel that it is hard lines to hear that phrase, which is repeated in certain circles of society, that, so long as we have this dole, we shall have people who will not want to work. I resent that very deeply, having the clearest understanding that, under our commercial system, people have been driven right down and out, have been battened down until they have lost hope, and many of them feel that it is hardly any use their making an effort at all. As a consequence, they become familiarised with the situation, and it looks to them as though it were very little use making any effort. I am not going to say that they should not still make the effort, but it is a gross injustice to make the statement to which I have referred about a body of our people in reference to whom every Member of this House ought to be able to say, from the point of view of British prestige, that our working men and women, taken together, individually or collectively, are as fine a body of people, speaking generally, as you could get in any part of the world for the purpose of carrying on our commercial and industrial activities. To malign them in that fashion is really to make an attack upon our national credit.
These people, in truth, have a claim to that defence of which we were hearing yesterday. They have a claim to ask, "Where is your home defence? Where is your provision for the defence of the hearths and the homes of the people?" If you have a million and a quarter of people who are in this appalling position, that, according to the system of the Ministry of Labour, they have to go round the gates and get that cold, bitter answer, "There is nothing for you," there is no need to draw upon the imagination in cases of that kind; there is a hardship there that you are unable personally ever to measure up unless you have gone through it yourself. You would never have been able to sustain the situation unless you had made the guarantee that in some degree or other these people were to be protected from the marauder of starvation. You would have disgraced your nation, and you would undoubtedly have brought into 718 operation forces which some of us certainly disagree with very strenuously, and you would have had illegal in place of constitutional action. One of the arguments of these people is this. You will never find those who represent the class interests of the nation give way because of a realistic moral issue. They will only be governed, directed and controlled by selfish commercialised interests which place paramount the interests of property and of money, as against the interests of the people who produce the necessities of life.
I want to speak for our constituency and at the same time the other industrial constituencies of the country. At present about 17,000 people are unemployed. It is only fair to say you can bring that down to 9,000 or 10,000, because 7,000 to 8,000 people are out on holidays. They have to register as unemployed, and 7,700 are registered as unemployed and have no prospect of getting anything out of the benefit. Efforts have been made in the past to try to Secure an interpretation which would enable them to get some little benefit if they are contributors to the fund still. They are returning in a week or two, and they go back with nothing from the fund. I know perfectly well, from our experience of last year, the meaning of the Clause is to effect that tightening up which was suggested as necessary by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he made those references to which no doubt he had been directed by interests represented on the other side that there are those who by their cupidity are seeking to take advantage of the system under the Act in enabling people to obtain a benefit which, from a strict reading of it, it might be said they are not entitled to receive. Do you not think, while you are using your cupidity to obviate, if at all possible, any practical support to those who are truly struggling in the combat of life, you are only stimulating other people to use their brains to see how they can get the better of you? You are operating on such lines that they say, "We have to try to put through some sort of story in order to get a chance of getting an existence." Why cannot we have a greater recognition of the truth, as we got it yesterday in another connection, that your greatest menace is the industrial situation that faces us to-day. I feel very keenly that 719 you are doing a gross injustice to people who have not only a right to get out of that fund the requisite sustenance of life, but are entitled to receive something more. The nation's wealth is flaunted in the very eyes of those who are down and out. Why, in the face of such propositions in millions as you fought for and voted for yesterday, have you the audacity, as the protectors of the nation, to tell people, "We will cut you out where we can in order to economise"? God help the country if this is what you call economy.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I want to join with my colleague in my expression of contempt for the Government, and the party that supports the Government, which has brought in such a Measure. The Government are making an effort to save. The whole of their economy is going to be made at the expense, as far as economy and finance are concerned, of the very worst people in the community. You are taking it in way from the people who have been out of employment for two or three years, who have exhausted the number of stamps they were able to place upon the employment book during their period of employment, and that is the type of people, battered about from post to pillar, unable to find employment, not only in the trade they have been trained in, but even casual employment, who are singled out by this Government to make an economy upon. Surely in the eyes of all right-minded and all thinking people that is the most contemptible policy that any Government ever put before the House. Why does not the Government do what the Employment Exchanges were brought into existence for, and find employment for those who are unemployed, and find workpeople for the employers who were wanting workpeople? If they the unable to find employment for the unemployed, the unemployed are entitled to unemployment benefit. That surely is a sane proposition to put forward instead of saying, "Because these people have been out of of employment for two or three years we are going to tighten up the Regulations, we are going to give the Minister of Labour greater powers than he has at present to refuse benefit to those poor unfortunate people because they cannot find employment. Because we, the Minister 720 of Labour and the officials of the Employment Exchanges, cannot find them employment, we are not going to give them benefit, and we will use the Regulations to cut them out of all benefit whatever."
They seem to be following out the policy of their own Prime Minister. The Prime Minister preaches a sermon—Moody and Sankey without the harmonium—appealing to us to give him peace in our time, and only to-day he tells the miners that, not only must their wages come down in the interests of the country, but the wages of other workers as well—a despicable and dastardly attempt to reduce the standard of living of the people. He ought to be ashamed to come to the House and face people with the word of the Lord in his mouth, as he uses it in this House. Reduce wages. We cannot carry on production unless we reduce wages. Extend working hours. We must have more production. Cut the money off the unemployed because we must have more money to carry on the Government, to build warships and for other purposes—Mesopotamia, Iraq, financing some cotton-growing plantation company that we are subsidising, finding money for everything but the people who have produced the wealth of the country and made that wealth possible. The Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Labour said that for us to speak of hardships was a figment of the imagination. It is well seen that he does not represent an industrial constituency. In my constituency we have had as many as 7,000 unemployed workers, male and female, on the books at one time out of a population of 70,000. I could have taken Members of this House—this is not sobstuff—into the homes of decent working people, men who were respectable, men who were not profligate either in morals or in any other way, women who, with small incomes coming in when the husband was unemployed, had done everything they could to bring up the family respectably and keep a decent home. I could have shown them sights in those homes which would have made their hearts bleed with pity for those who had to undergo the torture those people were undergoing. A figment of the imagination! I would to God some Members on the other side had gone through some of 721 the hell that working people are going through just now. They would be more appreciative of some of the attempts we are making to get better conditions for our people.
The Private Secretary probably knows what is in the mind of the Minister of Labour and his Parliamentary Secretary, but he does not know what is going on in the country. He may know what is going on in the offices in London, in the business centre, in the financial undertakings, but he does not know what is going on in the homes of the people or in the minds of the people. When the War ended you extended benefit to people who had never contributed. The allowance you gave was 29s. a week. Why? Because you were afraid when the men came out of the Army and found no employment and no money coming in, they would use the guns and the training; you had given them to get something they thought they had fought for. To stave off the possibility of that you threw 29s, at them, for which many of them never paid. Now you are asking power to take from people the right to benefit which they possess because they have paid into the fund. It is true undoubtedly that some of these people have exhausted their benefit. What of that? Have not their contributions helped to build up the fund that kept others going during previous periods? If they were helping others is it not right and proper that now, in their hour of distress, the country should help them? They are out because they have no stamps to their credit. They are cut out of benefit because, in the opinion of the Minister, a man 62 years of age is not likely to be again employed in insurable occupation. There are men 70 years of age who would be employed to-morrow in the shipyards, because of their experience and skill, if there were vacancies for them. I know a case of a man who was refused benefit because he was not likely to be insured again in insurable occupation. While I was fighting his case with the Minister, the man who was supposed not to be employable got a job in one of the shipyards. When we get Ministers exercising discretionary powers which show such lack of discretion, it is no wonder that we refuse to give them further powers.
Hon. Members try to make out that some people who get money from the Employment Exchange will not look for 722 work. The unemployment benefit is such a magnificent sum that large masses of workers prefer taking the benefit to finding work. You did not say that about them during the War. You did not malign their characters then. Now, they are defrauders of public funds, loafers, men who are sponging upon the community. Where are the spongers? Not in the Employment Exchanges, not drawing unemployment benefit, but here in the heart of London, down in the Smoke Room of this House, on the benches opposite. They are the spongers of society, the men who spend more in a week than a working-class family spend in a whole year. If some of the hon. Members opposite had to earn a living by the sweat of their brow, they would starve the first day.
I hope the people of this country will show this Government, who think they are going to last for five years. They have a great majority behind them—they are not behind it at the present moment, but on the Terrace—who will go into the Lobby—a silent majority, a majority that is dumb, a majority that votes because they have come in here as Conservatives, and are influenced neither by their heads nor their hearts, but by their feet—to vote down the rights of the people outside who are more decent than, or at least as decent as any person on the other side. I hope the people will show, as they did in the Forest of Dean, at any bye-election, what they think of the present Government. You can crush the people down to a certain depth, but there comes a time when even the great majority that this Tory Government possesses will not be able to save them from the wrath of the people they are crushing. In every Division that takes place on this Bill, I shall go into the Lobby gladly, voting against the principles of this Bill, voting against this dastardly attempt to deprive the people of their rights, voting against the despicable character of the Bill in the interests of the people I represent, and also because I believe that the Government that has brought it in is the meanest, the most lying, the most unscrupulous and dastardly Government that has ever disgraced the records of political history in this country.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have listened to speeches from the other side which made some attempt to defend the Clause. I 723 want the House to realise the meaning of the Clause. The Minister of Labour, in dealing with this Clause, originally said that he intended it mainly to deal with two classes. In the first case, young men living with their parents who are in receipt of an income, were to be disqualified from receiving extended benefit. The second class were married women living with their husbands who might be in employment. I oppose this Clause because I have always been an opponent of State bureaucratic methods. We are always challenged that we stand for Socialism, for nationalisation, and, therefore, for the power of the State bureaucrat as against the rights of the individual. This Clause means placing the lives of tens of thousands of people under the State bureaucrat in the Employment Exchange.
I will give, as an instance, a case which I brought before the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor in the last Conservative Government. It was a case of two lads in Scotland who lived next door to each other. The father of one of the lads worked under the Glasgow Corporation, and the father of the other lad was a guest of His Majesty in one of the prisons. The two lads were working more or less in the same occupation, and more or less they were out of work at the same time. When they applied at the Employment Exchange, the State bureaucrat said to one of the lads, "What does your father earn?" He replied, "My father is a decent man; he earns wages week in and week out." The other boy said, "My father is in prison." What defence can there be for a provision which says that if your father is decent and works week in and week out, you will get no benefit, while, on the other hand, if your father is a criminal and costing the State money, you must be given benefit from the Employment Exchange?
Why should a person because he has a decent father or mother be penalised, or why should he be penalised for his parents' bad qualities? This Clause is an attempt, in dealing with young men, to make conditions that no decent person would defend. I remember when I was fighting my first election, the Tory bills on the hoardings said, "Down with the Socialist, the man who is going to ruin the home!" 724 This Clause means that if a person puts his son out of the house, and makes him live in a model lodging house, that son will become qualified for benefit, because he is not in receipt of income from the family; but, if he is retained under parental control, and kept in the family, he is penalised. This Bill and this Clause are bad, because every son of a decent man will be penalised in the way I have suggested. I do not say that the man should be penalised because he has bad parents. No person, man or woman, ought to be penalised because of their parents.
I listened to one hon. Member who spoke about spongers on the Unemployment Fund. It may be true that there are people who are bad, but, if we take the proportion of people who are bad among the unemployed, and the proportion of bad Members in this House, the unemployed are equal to, if not better than, the average Member here. Take the case the other week in the Divorce Court, when members of the same class to which hon. Members opposite belong were mixed up with filth that the unemployed man would be ashamed to be associated with. The Parliamentary Secretary may have boys and girls of his own growing up. Those for whom I speak were boys and girls a few years ago, and their parents gave them as many good things as they could afford. How would he like his children to be injured or penalised or refused benefit because of his character, good, bad or indifferent? He comes here and he supports a proposal which will rob the poor, and the men who do that, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour himself, are contemptible people, who have no right to be here.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must address me, and should remember that we must give credit to one another in all parts of the House for honesty of purpose, however much we may disagree as to the proposals brought forward.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I did so for a long while in this House. When the new Government came in, I was the first to raise the question of Unemployment Benefit. At that time, I gave the-Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary credit for good intentions, and for having hearts as good as 725 ours. But take their actions since. Take their Bills. It is not what we think, but it is our actions that matter. Take their actions in this Bill. They are depriving decent people of benefit. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker: What would you think of me if I came along, well fed, and I deprived another Member of his legitimate rights? You would think I was contemptible, a mean man. When a well-fed man, a comfortable man comes along to deprive poor people of the means of life, I cannot give expression to a bad enough phrase to convey my opinion of that man. This Bill and this Clause not only hit the poor man, but the whole family. It is handing over to the Employment Exchanges, the bureaucrats, undue power. The Committees do not judge the cases. When the man is asked about his parent's conditions, and he states them, the official turns round to his clerk or his inspector and says, "Do you find that this man's home is as he states it?" If the young man has drawn all his standard benefit and he comes under extended benefit, his home, his parent's home, has to be open to inspectors from the Employment Exchange, so that they can go in and find out everything about his parent's income. If they are not allowed to go in and examine into everything, the man is automatically disqualified, because he has not allowed them access to the information. That is the stage at which we are now.
It was argued by a Member who occupies the position of Parliamentary Private Secretary that this provision was in operation for six and a-half months. Well, at least we took it away at the end of that time, but now the Government are taking away what was given by the Act passed last year. I understood that the object of every Minister was to make things better, but the object of his Bill is to make things worse. If the working people could have driven half as much terror into their hearts as they did in 1918 and 1919, this provision would not have been introduced, because argument here does not matter. The only thing that matters to them is terror. If the working people of this country could make the lives of the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary a burden, and make them live in daily fear, if they could make the Prime Minister not talk peace but live in mortal 726 terror with his colleagues, the unemployed would be decently treated. When you talk about these young men sponging, I look at the great places, the palaces, the royal homes of the rich, and I read of Princes touring abroad at the present time, of Kings with their £70,000, and if I had the choice between the poor unemployed and the rich spongers who are in the Royal family—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I feel greatly concerned about this Clause, especially when I consider that in my constituency alone in one district you have ail the pits idle. What is going to become of these people under this Clause? In my constituency ever since 1921 there has been a large number of miners who have been victimised, miners whose places will never be open to them again. The Parliamentary Secretary paid a big compliment to the rota committees; but when the rota committee decides that these people are entitled to unemployment benefit, the Minister has actually turned them down. I have been in touch with the Minister myself in reference to several cases where the rota committee decided that these people are entitled to benefit, and yet the Minister, on his own discretion, has been turning these cases down. The Minister of Labour, in introducing this Bill, gave two descriptions of the men who were to receive standard benefit and those who were to receive extended benfit. The men who received the standard benefit were the men with money in their pockets. They were able to go into the shop and pay their money down on the counter for the goods which they ordered from this shopkeeper. But the extended benefit meant that the men had to go to the shop and order things on credit. What is going to become of the poor devils who are not going to get standard benefit or extended benefit? [HON. MEMBERS: "The Poor Law!"] These are the people who will be affected mostly by this provision.
So far as the young men of 18 are concerned, they have not only contributed towards unemployment insurance but also fur unemployment benefit through their trade union. If a young man is entitled to benefit but his parents are in a very decent position, the Parliamentary Secretary is going to claim discretionary power in order to prevent him getting his benefit. 727 Suppose the trade union did exactly the same, the result would be resolutions from every branch of the trade union movement asking the executive why this man was deprived of benefit for which he was paying. The young man pays for this insurance benefit, exactly as he pays for the trade union benefit, and if the trade union fund is going down at all it is going to collapse after they have meted out justice In everybody who has contributed. Why cannot you do the same to these men? If the fund is going to collapse at all, let all collapse together. Do not penalise the parents of these boys simply because they have looked after themselves and are in a decent position. It is the most disgraceful Clause which I have ever seen in any Bill, and I shall vote against it. It is iniquitous and unjust to treat the people who are already downtrodden in the way in which this Bill is going to treat them.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
May I point out that the circumstances of the moment have altered entirely the character of the powers which the Minister has under this Clause? We do not know yet what the result of pending negotiations may be, but it may be that instead of being faced with the million and a-half unemployed whom we had last week—I am not speaking about miners—we may be faced in other trades with an enormous increase in the number of unemployed. These people will look to the fund to which they have contributed for years. We know that the Minister has introduced this Clause with a definite intention; that is, to save so much money. We do not know how much it is; but, if he is going to save the finances of this scheme—because this is merely a financial Measure; it is merely a way of screwing out of the unemployed a certain amount to support the fund—he will, if these unhappy events which we fear materialise, be compelled to use the powers under this Clause far more drastically than has been suspected hitherto. That added consideration must give us all very serious cause to pause. If it is intended to make the Clause effective financially and to save the money which it was intended to save, then, in view of the circumstances that may arise, the Minister will be compelled to use these powers not merely in the very mean way in which they were 728 to be used, but in a drastic way which will cause very widespread and very undeserved hardship.
§ Mr. KELLY
Had there been some justification by the Government for this discretion being given to the Minister, I might have given a silent vote on this occasion. I have listened to the discussion when the Bill was introduced and in Committee, and I have listened to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon, and he has not given one word of justification for this discretion being handed over to him. I have wondered whether he was going to tell us that, by the rigidity of the Measure already in existence, his officers were not able to prevent people who were not entitled receiving the benefit, but I can assure the House that his officers are so severe in their regulation of the Act at this particular time, and have been in the past, that there is no justification for this discretion being given to the Minister. I have known of cases, even of standard benefit, which the Minister and his advisers might have let through.
I will quote only one case to show how severe his advisers and officers are in preventing people from receiving unemployment benefit, unless they can prove their case. It is the case of a man in Huddersfield who, because he received 4d. on a particular day for helping a man to push a heavy load up a steep street, was deprived of his benefit. The man had signed in the Exchange and was standing on the pavement, when he saw this other individual endeavouring to take a great load up a steep street, and, because he gave a lift to that man and that man compensated him to the extent of 4d., the advisers of the hon. Gentleman appealed against the man having any benefit, on the ground that he had worked on that particular day. They were not satisfied when they went before the Court of Referees, and they actually took the matter before the Umpire, and the case was declared against us. The people who will advise the Minister as to the exercise of the discretion for which he is now asking, are the people who advised him in this case.
With reference to the trades of this country with which we are dealing at this moment, which were referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith 729 (Captain W. Benn) the people unemployed in the engineering trade, the mining trade, and many other trades, is it because they are unable to find employment that the Minister is going to use his discretion if they are living at home? It is not only young men who are living at home with their parents. Does the Minister intend to take the benefit away from them? The Parliamentary Secretary and his chief have appealed to the employers and trade unionists to help them in the matter of the young people who are being placed in employment. They know the struggle that the parents of those young people have in maintaining their young people. Does the right
§ hon. Gentleman intend now, after fighting with us as he has been fighting, to secure some payment to those people, to take away all the benefits from those young people who are entering upon their industrial and commercial life? There has not been one point put up which would justify us in supporting this Clause, and I hope the House will not give the Government the Clause it is asking for.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word "have," in line 9, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 244; Noes, 141.731
|Division No. 326.]||AYES.||[7.1 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Daiziel, Sir Davison||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Davidson. Major-General Sir J. H.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Atkinson, C.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Drewe, C.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Beamish, Captain T. p. H.||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Bethell, A.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fielden, E. B.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Finburgh, S.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Fleming, D P.||Lane-Fox, Colonel George R.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Ford, P. J.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lord, Walter Greaves-|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lougher, L.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lumley, L. R.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Goff, Sir Park||MacAndrew, Charles Glen|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Grant, J. A.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Burman, J. B.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Gretton, Colonel John||McLean, Major A.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hanbury, C.||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Harland, A.||Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N (Ladywood)||Harrison, G. J. C.||Meller, R. J.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Merriman, F. B.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Haslam, Henry C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Christle, J. A.||Hawke, John Anthony||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Sailsbury)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Cope, Major William||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Neville, R. J.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Tinne, J. A.|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Sandon, Lord||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Pilcher, G.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Shepperson, E. W.||Wells, S. R.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Raine, W.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ramsden, E.||Smithers, Waldron||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Spender Clay, Colonel H.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wragg, Herbert|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ropner, Major L.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Captain Douglas Hacking and|
|Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Captain Margesson.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, Walter||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sneil, Harry|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Stamford, T. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Clowes, S.||Lansbury, George||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, F.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Collins Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Livingstone, A. M.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn, William||Thurtle, E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Mackinder, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacLaren, Andrew||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maxton, James||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Duncan, C.||Mortague, Frederick||Warne, G. H.|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Forrest, W.||Naylor, T. E.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gibbins, Joseph||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Westwood, J.|
|Gosling, Harry||Paling, w.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Whiteley, W.|
|Greenall, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Riley, Ben||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hardie, George D.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Windsor, Walter|
|Harris, Percy A.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wright, W.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayes, John Henry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A.|
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I beg to move in page 1, line 9, after the word "shall, to insert the words 732as from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six.As I understand that the Debate which has taken place is intended to cover this 733 Amendment, I formally move it, and regret that I am not allowed to say what I would have liked to say.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 139; Noes, 244.735
|Division No. 327.]||AYES.||[7.12p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff, Cannock)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Baker, Walter||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smillie, Robert|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Bromley, J.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenyon, Barnet||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clowes, S.||Lee, F.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Compton, Joseph||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||Mackinder, w.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||MacLaren, Andrew||Viant, S. P.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dalton, Hugh||March, S.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maxton, James||Warne, G. H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Montague, Frederick||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||Murnin, H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Dunnico, H.||Naylor, T. E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Westwood, J.|
|Forrest, W.||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gillett, George M.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Greenall, T.||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wright, W.|
|Hardie, George D.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Charles|
|Hayday, Arthur||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Edwards.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Blundell, F. N.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Chilcott, Sir Warden|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Christie, J. A.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Briscoe, Richard George||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Bullock, Captain M.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burman, J. B.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Cope, Major William|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Campbell, E. T.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cassels, J. D.||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|Bethell, A.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W).||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Jacob, A. E.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Drewe, C.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lane-Fox, Colonel George R.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Finburgh, S.||Loder, J. de V.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Fleming, D. P.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Ford, P. J.||Lougher, L.||Sandon, Lord|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lumley, L. R.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||McDonnell Colonel Hon. Angus||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McLean, Major A.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Goff, Sir Park||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||McNeill, Rt. Hon Ronald John||Spender Clay Colonel H.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Sport, Sir Alexander|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Maitland Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Malone, Major P. B.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E||Margesson, Capt. D.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Meller, R. J.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hanbury, C||Merriman, F. B.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Harland, A.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Haslam, Henry C||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hawke John Anthony||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Headlam Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wells, S. R.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Neville, R. J.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nuttall, Ellis||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Oakley, T.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Homan, C. W. J.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Pilcher, G.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'and, Whiteh'n)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Price, Major C. W. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Raine, W.||Major Hennessy and Mr. F. C.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Ramsden, E.||Thomson.|
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I beg to move, in page 1, line 14, at the end, to insert the wordsand as though the words 'if in addition to satisfying the requirements aforesaid he also proves' and the words following to the end of the Sub-section were omitted.The importance of this Amendment can only be seen by hon. Members if they refer to the 1924 Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Act. Sub-section (3) of Section 1 of that Act, which deals with the Regulations governing the work of the rota committees and the payment of benefit to a number of the unemployed 736 men who have to appear before those committees, is the Sub-section in question. It is as follows:If an applicant for benefit in whose case the requirements of subsection (1) of this section are fulfilled is not entitled thereto under the provisions of the last preceding Sub-section, by reason either that the number of contributions paid in respect of him within the period therein mentioned is less than twenty, or that sufficient contributions are not standing to his credit or that he has already received benefit, for periods amounting in the aggregate to twenty-six weeks in the benefit year in which the application is made, he shall nevertheless be entitled to receive benefit 737 if in addition to satisfying the requirements aforesaid he also proves—The Amendment asks for the insertion in this Bill of the words contained upon the Order Paper and the deletion of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of the Sub-section of the Act I have quoted. The Bill which we are now considering is the fifteenth Unemployment Bill introduced during the last nine years, and as it has already been described, this Clause is one of the worst Clauses of a very bad Bi]]. It is really a combination of two Sections which we regard as the very worst Sections of the 1923 and 1924 Acts. The 1924 Act took away the discretionary power of the Minister, and, in taking away that power, it inserted the Subsection which I have read out and which was for the purpose of tightening up the administration. As this Clause seeks to restore to the Minister that discretionary power, we ask that this Bill should be placed in the same position as the 1923 Act. The whole purpose of this and other Clauses of the Bill is to save money.
- (a) that he is normally employed in such employment as would make him an employed person within the meaning of the principal Act (in this Act referred to as "insurable employment"), and will normally seek to obtain his livelihood by means of insurable employment;
- (b) that in normal times insurable employment suited to his capacities would be likely to be available for him;
- (c) that he has, during the two years immediately preceding the date of the application for benefit, been employed in an insurable employment to such an extent as was reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case and in particular to the opportunities for obtaining insurable employment during that period;
- (d) that he is making every reasonable effort to obtain employment suited to his capacities and is willing to accept such employment."
I am not going to deal with the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or with the purpose of some of the worst Clauses of the Bill. One could easily describe this as a second baby handed on, not to the Ministry of Health, but to the Ministry of Labour. It is solely for the purpose of saving the face of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the light of the new Pensions Bill. As we are giving this discretionary power to the Minister, we ask that he should accept this Amendment 738 and place himself in the same position as that which he occupied previously Whatever the grounds were for the inclusion of this provision in the 1924 Act, it has turned out from the actual working of that Act that it has been used for a purpose quite different from that which was intended, and I am sure that hon. Members will agree that in view of the situation instead of tightening up the administration of the Act, there should be a little easing off. Every hon. Member has had brought to his notice individual cases with regard to the working of this Sub-section, and while it really was given as an instruction to the rota committee and while the rota committees have tried to carry-out the spirit of the Sub-section, unfortunately the Ministry through their officers have so interfered that even the rota committees' opinions are not taken in connection with this question.
I have a case which shows how it affects a number of men who are genuinely unemployed and seeking work. It is the case of a man who was employed as a craftsman at a colliery for something like, 35 years and who, as a craftsman, was insured against unemployment from 1912 till 1922. In 1922 he left his insurable employment and went into business for 18 months or two years. At the end of that period he gave up business and again entered insurable employment. Unfortunately, he could not get regular employment, and he had only eight or nine stamps to his credit. He appeared before the rota committee, and the committee said he was entitled to benefit even under this Sub-section, but the insurance officer intervened, with the result that the decision of the rota committee was turned down, and this man for some time was deprived of benefit. The Sub-section is full of anomalies such as this, and, if we can delete it, a better chance of obtaining the benefit to which they are entitled will be given to men who are willing to work but unable to find it.
We claim that whatever money is saved as a result of Clause I of the Bill is simply going to be saved to the Insurance Fund, and the burden is going to be passed on to the local authorities. I come from an area where the local authority has been suffering and the Poor Law administration has almost broken down. 739 The rates are between 24s. and 25s. in the £, and they have been as high as 30s., and this is very largely the result of the local rates being used for the maintenance of people who should be entitled to the unemployment benefit. Taking the amount of Poor Law payments in 1913–14, we find that the amount of Poor Law relief paid by local authorities in this country was then nearly £15,000,000. In 1924 it had increased to something like £38,000,000. I would also refer hon. Members to the Report of the Minister of Health dealing specifically with the grams of loans to local authorities to assist them ever difficult periods in such centres as Merthyr, Middlesbrough—so ably represented by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson)—and quite a large number of other necessitous areas. I would draw attention for a moment to the mining industry. We are faced at the present moment in the mining industry with the fact that the cost of production has increased by something like 6d. per ton owing to the incidence of local rating, and that, with other factors, is making the situation as difficult as it is at the present moment.
There is another aspect of the question. We have now had five years of unemployment, and, if we take the figures given by the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, we can see some part of the effect which unemployment has had in our large industrial areas. In 1923, he said, that among the insured population of this country not less than 20,500,000 weeks of work was lost, very largely through preventable illness, but, if we take his Report for 1924, we find that the number of weeks lost had increased to not less than 23,750,000. We say that a good deal of this is owing to the poverty of these people and the very poor conditions with which they are faced. When we talk of all these millions of weeks' work lost, or 477,000 years of work lost, as the Chief Medical Officer said, if unemployment is going to keep on as it is, it will mean that there will be not less than 1,300,000 years of work lost, or nearly 70,000,000 weeks of work lost amongst the working population of this country. Seeing that the Government have failed, up till now, to deal with unemployment effectively, the least we can ask them to do is to make the receiving of unemployment 740 benefit by a number of these men who cannot get work as easy as they can make it.
Who are the most pitiful objects with whom we have to deal? Come into the mining areas, with a colliery closed down, and men from 45 to 60 or 65 years of age unable to get work. In some of the mining valleys in Wales, in little townships, there is nothing else but mining for the men to do. About 99 per cent. of the male population are engaged in mining, and when you have, as you have in Blaina, in Blaenavon, or in Merthyr, a great number of the men who have been engaged in mining for something like 40 or 45 years, and who are now 50, 55 or 60 years of age, it is impossible for them to get work in other collieries around. Some of them have been unemployed for two, three, and four years, and yet, as a result of a Sub-section of this kind, you make it almost impossible for these decent men, some of the most respectable men I have known, to get unemployment benefit. There is the other aspect, such as the nystagmus men, who, as a result of this dread industrial disease that is so prevalent in our mining areas, are unable to get suitable work, owing to the fact that they cannot be employed underground. They cannot get work on the surface, their compensation is reduced to the bare making up amount, and the result is that, unless they get unemployment benefit, all that they have to do is to seek Poor Law relief. I ask the Minister to give serious attention to this Amendment. It will not affect him very greatly, and it will show to those men who are suffering—and no men have suffered more than they have—that there is a genuine desire on the part of the Government to make things as easy as possible for them.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must point out to the House that, having disposed of the first Amendment, after a prolonged Debate, we must not go back to the full width of that question on the whole Clause. We must keep ourselves to the particular proposals of this Amendment.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so on the ground that the retention of these statutory obligations imposed upon claimants to benefit will place them 741 in an inferior position to that in which they were in 1923. These particular paragraphs in. the Act of 1924 were inserted for the purpose of acting as safeguards to balance taking away the discretionary powers of the Minister. It is sought to renew these powers now, and yet, at the same time, the Act of 1924, so far as these paragraphs are concerned, is to remain unamended. Paragraph (d), which imposes the condition that the claimant shall makeevery reasonable effort to obtain employment suited to his capacities and is willing to accept such employmentis the thing that, to my mind, has done more to injure the interests of the unemployed, perhaps, than any other provision of that character. I will give the House one indication of what I mean. Your committees have no industrial experience; they do not understand the conditions of seeking employment and the varying conditions in the different industries. I know a case where an unemployed man has only about 15 or 20 workshops in the whole of London to which he can go to ask for employment. That man, in the early period of his unemployment, went the round of those workshops over and over again, and obtained letters from the employers stating that they were unable to find employment for him. It is quite impossible for that person to continue to go round that limited number of shops, knowing full well that there is no possible chance of employment for him, annoying everybody concerned, from the manager of the shop up to the employer himself, and to be sent away time after time with more or less covert insults. He cannot be expected to be continually going round seeking employment in order to conform to a provision of this kind. That is just one instance where a man is injured and penalised because of a peculiar industrial condition which the rota committees themselves do not understand. For these, and many other reasons, I second the Amendment.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
As the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), who moved the Amendment, said, it is a very far-reaching one and one of very considerable importance, but I hesitate to think that either the Mover or the Seconder has really visualised what would be the effect of the Amendment, if passed. Neither hon. Member suggested any alternative words. What 742 they do by the Amendment is to ask that paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of Subsection (3), of Section I of the Act of 1924 shall be left out. The effect would be to give the Minister free and absolute discretion. I do not know whether they contemplated that they were putting this immense responsibility and power into the hands of the Minister, but that undoubtedly would be the effect of what they are asking us to do. If this Amendment were accepted, the Minister would be subject to no control at all; he would have absolute discretion with regard to all these cases. These four paragraphs do, through the rota committees, give guidance to the Minister, but the Amendment does something more, which I do not think the hon. Members have contemplated. At the end of Sub-section (3) there are certain benefits given to persons who have served in the forces. It says that for the purposes of paragraph (c), which is one of the paragraphs sought to be eliminated by this Amendment:(i) in the case of a seaman, marine, soldier, or airman in respect of whom a payment is to be made or has been made under Section 41 of the principal Act, service as 6eaman, marine, soldier or airman; and(ii) in the case of any person formerly engaged in war service, the undergoing of training for an insurable occupation, where the cost of the training is defrayed out of funds administered by the Minister or by the Minister of Pensions;shall be treated as employment in insurable employment.The benefits then are given to persons undergoing training and to persons who have served in the forces, and they are also to be taken away if this Amendment be accepted. A further result of accepting the Amendment is that you place persons who apply for extended benefit on exactly the same footing as those who have contributions to their credit, which I hesitate to think is what the hon. Members desire, because surely that would be contrary, whatever may be the rights and the wrongs of our respective views in the discussion on the previous Amendment, to every true insurance principle that you can name. If the contributions are available, that is to say, if they are standing to a man's credit, that is the test of his insurability. If there are no contributions, some conditions are necessary to test the genuineness of 743 the claim, and the effect of this Amendment, I repeat, is to remove all these tests. It does not suggest any other tests to put in their place, and I suggest to the hon. Member that, in the interests which they themselves have at heart, they would be well advised not to press this Amendment.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I have listened with great attention to what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, and I really think that, so far from my hon. Friends suffering from any mistake in this matter, it is the hon. Member himself who is mistaken in his view of this Clause. What is the position as it exists to-day I Before the passing of the No. 2 Act of 1924, I think the hon. Member will agree with me that the conditions which are here laid down did not exist—not, that is, in the form in which they now are. In 1924 the applicant who comes under Subsection (3) was given a statutory right. It was declared that, if he had received benefit, he should nevertheless be entitled to receive benefit. That was safeguarded in this way, that he was to receive the benefit if, in addition to satisfying the requirements aforesaid, he also proved the conditions set down in paragraphs (a) to (d). The Government are seeking to take away that statutory right to benefit, and are substituting for it the wordsthe Minister may, if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, he considers it expedient in the public interest so to do, authorise that person to receive benefit.So that the individual claiming benefit under this Sub-section is back in the position in which he was before 1924, dependent upon the discretion of the Minister. He ceases to have any statutory right. What I do not understand is what the Minister means when he says that, if this Amendment were accepted, he would be able to do whatever he liked and would have a free hand. This condition operates, not against the Minister; it operates against the applicant. The position to-day is this: that the applicant has certain rights, if he can satisfy certain conditions. The Clause says that he has no lights unless the Minister chooses to give him those rights, and, therefore, the question of the conditions does not arise at all. The conditions which we are now seeking to eliminate only become impor- 744 tant if a man otherwise has a right to benefit, but, if this Clause is carried, then the Minister, "having regard to all the circumstances of the case," may, if he thinks fit, authorise the benefit. It leaves him a complete discretion as to whether or not he authorises the benefit.
What occurs to me, and what makes this Amendment so important and the refusal of the Minister to accept it so serious, is that if these conditions are still to obtain the Minister will only be able to exercise a discretion when those conditions are first satisfied. It means that the things he is going to consider, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, are only going to arise for consideration after the conditions are satisfied, which will whittle down the right to an extraordinary extent. The applicant has now to satisfy these four conditions. In the first place, he will have to get the discretion of the Minister exercised in his favour, and, if there is any meaning in giving a Minister discretion, that discretion must be something over and beyond the conditions which the applicant has to satisfy in any event.
Let us see what these conditions arc. He has got to satisfy that he is normally-employed in such an employment as would make him an employed person, that in normal times insurable employment suitable to his capacity would be available, and that he has during the two years immediately preceding the date of his application for benefit been employed in insurable employment. Lastly, he must show—and that is often hard—that he has made every reasonable effort to obtain employment suitable to his capacity. I say that is hard, because in practice it is interpreted in a very harsh way. I know there have been cases—and there have been cases in my own constituency—where in order to satisfy that condition the man was required to go round all the works in the district, although there were large placards displayed outside, "No men wanted," with the foreman standing there to swear at any man coming there for employment. Before the man can satisfy this condition, he has got to show he has been kicked out from, and insulted at every work in the district. When all that has been done and persecution and humiliation have been endured, then at last under the 745 existing law he has a right to benefit. As the law will now be, if the Bill goes through, having done all that, it is to be left in the discretion of the Minister.
Surely that is really being a little merciless. If you give a complete discretion to the Minister to deny unemployment benefit altogether under this Clause, surely the most academic and the most timid person influenced by actuarial considerations ought to be satisfied with entrusting the Minister with that discretion. I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not think the Minister ought to have discretion, but I am giving consideration to what Mr. Speaker said, that that arises on the more general question. But, seeing that the discretion is there, surely it is sufficient safeguard. The Minister can provide in his own discretion what the conditions should be. You do not want to fetter a man twice, first tie him to a stake, and then fetter the stake to the floor. Surely it is enough if the Minister has the discretion. I think it is a very important matter, because it shows clearly that the Government are not merely concerned with this discretion but want positively to worsen the position as compared with what it was before the year 1924 and before the Labour Government introduced this provision at all.
There is one other matter. The Minister has again said that we have overlooked the final paragraph that says persons who have been serving as seamen, soldiers and so on, are to be deemed to be in an insurable employment. But there is no danger to a man when once the conditions are eliminated. I do not understand the right hon. Member when he says we have overlooked the proviso. It says you have got to show that you are in insurable employment. If the Amendment be carried, the necessity to show insurable employment in paragraph (c) goes, and therefore the proviso is not needed. I do suggest that my hon. Friends around me were not so foolish or witless as is suggested, in moving the Amendment in this form. If you are going to have a discretion, it remains the discretion of the Minister. What we want to know and what the House is entitled to know is this. This is a proposal for taking away a statutory right to benefit. We ask, if it be decided that the Minister 746 should exercise a discretion, what need have you still to maintain the old statutory conditions which were inserted solely for the purpose of guaranteeing that the statutory right which now exist should not be abused? If Members will read the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) which was made when the Bill was introduced, it will be seen that the two things are one and indivisible. The statutory right was given, and statutory protection against abuse was given too. But to insist upon statutory protection against abuse when there is no statutory right is overdoing it. I cannot help thinking, and I say it with all respect, that had this Amendment been moved from the other side it would have been accepted by the Government. There is no answer to this Amendment except that which is moved from the Labour Benches. That is the only answer. You are seeking to impose by Statute a limitation which often in practice amounts to persecution, in order that at the end of all the toil and trouble you are left with the mere charity right at the discretion of the Minister
I do not suppose anybody attaches importance to what I say, but I remember I said in the first speech I made in this House that sooner or later the party opposite would come to the parting of the ways—whether they were really going to be dominated by those members of the party who were really concerned with social reform or reconstruction, or whether they were going to fall under the domination of the more harsh members and plutocrats. It is quite obvious that the refusal to accept this Amendment is dominated by plutocracy and financial influences, and I regard it as a crushing defeat of the social reformers on the other side of the House, that having once given to these poor people a certain right which would help them and do so much social good, the Government should now come along and go back. It is a surrender to the Press, because the whole of this agitation was started in the newspapers. It is a surrender to financial interests and to the callous and more cruel influences which always work in a Conservative Government, and is a defeat of those on the other side of the House who stand for better influences. I hope that the Minister will see that this is a really needless hardship and callousness, and will, after considera- 747 tion, agree to this Amendment, although it has been moved from this side of the House.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 216749
|Division No. 328.]||AYES.||7.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Harris, Percy A.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayes, John Henry||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Sexton, James|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, G. H.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barr, J.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smillie, Robert|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snell, Harry|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Clowes, S.||Kenyon, Barnet||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lansbury, George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawson, John James||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E)|
|Cove, W. G.||Livingstone, A. M.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, Andrew||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||Maxton, James||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Murnin, H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Forrest, W.||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gillett, George M||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gosling, Harry||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenall, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Ritson, J.||Wright, W.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Briscoe, Richard George||Cope, Major William|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Atkinson, C.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bullock, Captain M.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Burman, J. B.||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Campbell, E. T.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cassels, J. D.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Dean, Arthur Wellesley|
|Bethell, A.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Chapman, Sir S.||Drewe, C.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Christie, J. A.||Elliot, Captain Walter E.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Clarry, Reginald George||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Clayton, G. C.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Finburgh, S.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. O.|
|Fleming, D. P.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Ford, P. J.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Loder, J. de V.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T||Lougher, L.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lumley, L. R.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Rye, F. G.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Goff, Sir Park||McLean, Major A||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sandon, Lord|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Malone, Major P. B.||Sinclair. Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Margesson, Captain D.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hanbury, C.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Meller, R. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Harland, A.||Merriman, F. B.||Spender Clay, Colonel H.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Stanley, Hon O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Storry Deans, R.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Henn, sir Sydney H.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Neville, R. J.||Tinne, J A.|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Nuttall, Ellis||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Oakley, T.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wells. S. R.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Pilcher, G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Womersley, W. J.|
|Jacob, A. E.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Raine, W.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Ramsden, E.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Rawson, Alfred Cooper|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Remer, J. R.||Major Hennessy and Mr. F. C.|
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. When I raised this point earlier in the day with regard to these four paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), there were various names to those Amendments. None of those Members has been asked to move.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I am perfectly willing to give way, but can I ask your ruling on this matter? There seems to have been a misunderstanding on the 750 previous Motion. Would it not be well, seeing that we are not allowed speeches on the Motion, to move to delete paragraphs (b) and (c) and (c) and (d)?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid I cannot do that, as there are other Amendments coming on, and if I allow a Division on paragraphs (c) and (d) or (b) and (c), we could pass to the further points of the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) to move the Amendment.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, in page 1, line 14, at the end, to add the words, "and as if paragraphs (c) and (d) were omitted."
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 138; Noes, 211.753
|Division No. 329].||AYES.||[8.7 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayday, Arthur||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barnes, A.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smillie, Robert|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Clowes, S.||Kenyon, Barnet||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lunn, William||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald. Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacLaren, Andrew||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dennison, R.||March, S.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Murnin, H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Forrest, W.||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Gosling, Harry||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Greenall, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Ritson, J.||Wright, W.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Hardie, George D.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Harris, Percy A.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Campbell, E. T.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cassels, J. D.||Finburgh, S.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Fleming, D. P.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Ford, P. J.|
|Atkinson, C.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Chapman, Sir S||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Christie, J. A.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Clarry, Reginald George||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Clayton, G. C.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Goff, Sir Park|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cope, Major William||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bethell, A.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Daiziel, Sir Davison||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davies, David (Montgomery)||Hanbury, C.|
|Bowyer, Capt G. E. W.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Harland, A.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Drewe, C.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Burman, J. B.||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Merriman, F. B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Meyer, Sir Frank.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sandon, Lord|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb., N.)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Neville, R. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Spender Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Jacob, A. E.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Nuttall, Ellis||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Oakley, T.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Storry Deans, R.|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Pilcher, G.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Tinne, J. A.|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Loder, J. de V.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Price, Major C. W. M.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Lougher, L.||Raine, W.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Ramsden, E.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Wells, S. R.|
|MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Remer, J. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|McLean, Major A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Womersley, W. J.|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Roberts. Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Ropner, Major L.||Young, E. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Major Hennessy and Lord Stanley.|
|Meller, R. J.||Rye, F. G.|
Mr. T. THOMSON
I beg to move, in page 1, line 14, at the end, to insert the wordsProvided that any Regulations made by the Minister with respect to the conditions under which a person is to be authorised to receive benefit shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty days on which that House has sat next after any such Regulation is laid before it praying that the Regulation may be annulled, it shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder or to the making of any new Regulation.In this Clause, the Minister is taking the most democratic powers to deal with the administration of benefits. There is nothing in the Bill which indicates on what lines or under what conditions benefit will be given or refused in the future, and this Amendment retains the Parliamentary power of controlling and regulating the conditions under which benefit shall be given. It is, of course, a constitutional point of some considerable importance. Having by this Bill repealed, in effect, the 1924 Act, which laid down a statutory right, and now giving the Minister these large democratic 754 powers, we are entitled as a House to know under what conditions and under what terms he will administer them. I cannot see how the Minister can refuse the request that these Regulations that are being made should be laid upon the Table of the House, in order that the House may agree or approve of them, as we may desire.
This procedure happens in regard to many other matters in the Ministries. When the Pensions Bill was passed last week, or the week before, similar Regulations or conditions were laid down. Therefore, we are only following constitutional precedent in asking that the Regulations should be submitted to the House. In resisting this Amendment in Committee, the Minister suggested that it was impossible to standardise the conditions, and that by requiring that these Regulations should be laid before the House we were acting against the interests of the insured people, because, if there were qualifications to be made, it was much more difficult to make them under Regulations than by the act of the Minister. But I submit that we ought to know what are the conditions. We want to standardise the terms. We say that 755 the insured person has a right to know, and that Parliament has a right to know, the terms and conditions under which benefit shall be paid. Therefore, I submit this Amendment to the House.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I beg to second the Amendment.
I hope it will be accepted by the Minister. There is a very important point of constitutional liberty here, for the House of Commons has always been jealous of parting with any of its powers of legislation to a Minister. To give a Minister such important powers as these of making and drafting Regulations is very nearly parting with legislative powers to a Government Department. This Amendment is drafted in such terms that there will be no delay entailed in the matter, for, as provided by the Amendment, the Regulations may be either accepted or cancelled by the vote of the House. Hon. Members are naturally suspicious as to the powers to be placed in the hands of a Minister, for hon. Members feel, as do some of the people outside who are concerned, that these Regulations may be so drafted as to go very much further than has been suggested by the Minister in his various speeches. We ought, I submit, 1o have the opportunity to criticise, to scrutinise, to see what form they are going to take, and then much of the opposition to this Bill would be removed.
There is something even more than that. We are getting into the habit of giving autocratic powers to Ministers which affect the lives and well-being of our citizens. The House of Commons is very careful to keep control over Government Departments. Bureaucracy may be full of good intentions. It does not always exercise good understanding in the powers entrusted to it. The world is paved with good intentions. But Members of Parliament, who are in touch with their constituents, know very much better what are the needs and realities of the situation than does any Government Department in Whitehall. It is just as well that the House of Commons should have some say in Regulations such as these, affecting so many thousands of people. From my own experience, I know that some of these Regulations in the past have fallen very severely on certain people. The Minister 756 may not intend it, but what we want to secure before these Regulations become permanent is that they should be thoroughly criticised by the House of Commons, and that the House should have the right, if hon. Members so desire, to amend, alter, or annul them.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I gather that the object of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment is to secure that the action of the Minister in regard to the matters referred to in the Amendment shall obtain he fullest publicity. If that be so, I can satisfy hon. Members at once.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
If that be so, I must point out, first of all, that the hon. Gentleman opposite has somewhat misconceived the matter. The Amendment says:Provided that any Regulations made by the Minister with respect to the conditions under which a person is to be authorised to receive benefit shall be laid before each House of Parliament…But the present Bill and the Act of 1924 does not make that necessary, nor, indeed, do they prescribe that the Minister, when giving these directions, shall make Regulations at all. The Act allows him to do this by directions. A direction is a very different thing from a Regulation, because a Regulation has always the rigidity of the Act itself. In many of these cases it is necessary, or it may be necessary, for the Minister to act quickly; it may be necessary or desirable that his decision from time to time should be modified at rather short notice. My right hon. Friend has always desired that there shall be the fullest publicity of what he is doing in this matter, and he has agreed to place in the Library the directions which he issues from time to time. He has said, and I have said here, too, that we are perfectly willing, and indeed wishful, to send these copies to any Member of the House who cares to see them at any time. The Minister is anxious that the House should know exactly what he is doing in this matter, and for that purpose we are quite willing to take the steps that I have suggested. That would appear to be the object the hon. Members have in view in the Amendment. In these circumstances, 757 I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
It is quite true, as the Parliamentary Secretary says, that it is intended, apparently, that a lot of the administration under this Act shall be by instructions or directions of the Minister, and not be Regulations. We have had some experience of that already since the present Government came into office. It is the very thing which has been done by the Minister under the Circular which has now come to be known as the famous circular of 19th February. Although the Minister does not talk about such an arrangement as being a regulation, yet, in fact, when he comes to communicate with local people, an instruction to the various branches of his Ministry is regarded as a rule. I have before me a letter from the Minister, dated 11th June, to the Sheffield Board of Guardians, in which he is replying to a resolution of the guardians concerning the very severe effect upon local conditions of the instruction of the Minister of 19th February. He says:It seems to the Minister to be the clear intention of the Act in allowing an interval before the new condition comes fully into force that during that interval steps should be taken to apply the condition gradually in the interval, and it was in pursuance of this intention that the Minister decided to put into force the 'rule' now in question.So the whole of the directions which have been so adversely affecting the unemployed and local authorities during the last five or six months have been regarded by the Minister as rules. If that be so, I think the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and those on the Labour Benches who have a further Amendment on the paper, are entitled to ask that this House should have the final control of instructions of that very far-reaching nature.
I do not think it is realised in the country how serious are the effects of the instructions of the Minister. I have been going into some local figures on this very point. As a result of the rule laid down by the Minister on 19th February, over which this House has no control, we get such effects as this. In the week ended 21st February, that is, two days after the issue of the circular, I find that in the area of the Sheffield Board of Guardians the total weekly increase in relief, owing to lack of unemployment 758 benefit, was £888. On the 29th June this year, after his instruction had been in operation for four months, the extra charge in out-relief was £1,495, an increase of £610 per week, or nearly 80 per cent. At an earlier stage of the Bill I said it would cost Sheffield something like £30,000 a year—in regard to what the Minister did under the Circular of 19th February. The figures we have now got out demonstrate that absolutely, yet when we come here with a reasonable request that the regulations, rules, instructions, whatever you like to call them, which have such a very disastrous effect upon local finance should come within the purview and the control of the representatives of the people, we are quietly told by the Minister that it cannot be done. I realise from the drafting of the Bill in its present form, and from the original Act of 1920, that it may be difficult for the Minister to accept the Amendment unless he be prepared to accept another Amendment as well which would make it incumbent upon him to do these things by regulation instead of by instruction; and in spite of the adamant attitude he has shown during the discussion of the Bill. I hope that, having regard to the strong opposition to the Government's policy not merely of Members on these benches, but of representatives of all parties who sit on local authorities, and the desire to have some control in this matter, that the Minister will yet see his way to amend the Bill so as to provide for control by this House of matters of such far-reaching effect as those we have been talking about.
§ Mr. BECKETT
I cannot let this Clause go through without saying on behalf of the constituency I represent how very necessary it is that some check should be placed upon the actions of the Minister and of his Parliamentary Secretary under this Clause. Tyneside has for some years been one of the six worst places in the country for unemployment, and since the advent of the hon. Gentleman opposite to power the unemployment figures have very largely increased, and when the whole of our industry is being ground even lower than it was before by the action of the present Government in callously throwing their responsibility on to the ratepayers, and thus handicapping our export industries in such a way that it is impossible for them to make any 759 kind of recovery, it seems very necessary to have a check upon the activities of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) spoke of the deputation, which I had the honour of accompanying, which waited on the Prime Minister last Friday on behalf of necessitous areas. In those areas we are faced with what amounts practically to a breakdown in the system of local government. If the right hon. Gentlemen and their unemployed friends, who will presently come in to vote us down without having heard the discussion, are allowed to continue their thoroughly mischievous activities with regard to the bottom dog, it is going to be quite impossible to carry cm the system of local government which has been carefully and gradually evolved by the wisdom of many generations of Englishmen. "When we saw the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour and the Chancellor of the Exchequer we wore met with very great sympathy and very great kindness. If the Prime Minister were not even more helpless than he is sympathetic, we should have had something to help us on the very hard journey we are engaged on, but we have to face the fact that in 1923, under the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors, we had 6,000 unemployed on the live register—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I do not see how the hon. Member is connecting his argument with the question in this Amendment as to whether these regulations should be presented to Parliament.
§ Mr. BECKETT
I am trying to show that the effect of what the Minister is doing is to throw upon our shoulders the burden of maintaining these unemployed, and that the Government are now refusing an Amendment which will make the Minister responsible to this House for his actions in that respect. If there were no unemployed in my constituency I should have no reason for speaking on this Clause. With your permission I should like to give to the House some particulars of the tremendous problem with which we are faced.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman may argue that the laying of these regulations before Parliament 760 would affect his constituency. He is really not in order in bringing in the circumstances of his own constituency without reference to the effect that will be produced by the acceptance or non-acceptance of this particular Amendment.
§ Mr. BECKETT
We have at the present moment a tremendous unemployed problem which, unless we are very careful, will entirely break down our local financial system through the rates, and there I am very anxious that the Minister should not have power to impose any Regulations or directions which might have the effect of increasing our local burdens without this House having an opportunity to approve them which the Amendments of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) would give us. I hope the House will consider this Amendment very carefully. It is not as if we had gentlemen in office whom we felt had any kind of real sympathy or feelings in issuing these Regulations. We have learned very bitterly during the past six months that although we may get more courtesy from the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour than from other hon. Members, we also get more callous treatment, Because there is no tyranny like a weak tyranny, and there are no people so hard as those who know what they are doing is wrong and yet for other reasons deliberately pursue that wrong and callous policy.
It is on that account that I appeal to those hon. Members who are interested in this question to see whether they cannot give us some kind of check on these mischievous activities. If no Regulations or directions are going to be imposed which the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary feel are unfair, mean, callous, treacherous or despicable, then why should they mind the House of Commons having the ultimate voice and authority in this matter? It seems to me that when we have all this fear about the House of Commons with a large Conservative majority governing issues of this kind there must be something even meaner contemplated in the future than what the right hon. Gentleman has done since he has been in office. I do not understand why these Regulations should not be brought forward for the House to consider. I regret that the House presents 761 such a contrast to that which was presented last evening, and reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have two broad prejudices and dislikes, they dislike people who live outside this country and workers who live inside it.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Questions about foreigners cannot possibly have anything to do with this Amendment, and I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the question before the Chair.
§ Mr. BECKETT
I think the Regulations ought to be considered by this House before they are allowed to be put into effect. If we have to bring Regulations or directions in front of the House, and if we have to spend a certain amount of time discussing them, then urgent economies might not be effected in time. That would have been a very effective argument the day before yesterday, but it is not effective to-day. A Government that can spend £56,000,000 upon protecting us from some enemy that their distorted and fevered imaginations have conjured up cannot spend £400,000—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member must know that all this has absolutely no relevance to the Amendment.
§ Mr. BECKETT
It is very obvious that the feelings of the mass of the people are inspired by a deep distrust of the motives of the Minister of Labour, which T would ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to allow me to express as briefly as I can. If there was no feeling except that of a kind heart at the Ministry of Labour there would be no need for us to have to press for such an Amendment as this. If there was not even some more callous actions than the right hon. Gentleman has performed in the past contemplated he would not oppose such an eminently reasonable Amendment, which is not intended, and could not have the effect of luring him into any kind of rash financial commitment. It cannot cost him a penny. The only thing it can do is to say that in the future any particular cheeseparing which the thoroughly comfortable intend to do at the expense of the thoroughly uncomfortable will have to be submitted to this House before it is done. For 762 these reasons I would like the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter. I have only been in this House a short time, and it has always been a marvel to me to notice how many hon. Members in their individual capacity are charitable, and yet when they come here in their corporate capacity they drive up to this House comfortably, eat an expensive meal, and buy themselves expensive wine—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I cannot conclude that the hon. Member errs through obtuseness, and, therefore, I must conclude that he errs through intention.
§ Mr. BECKETT
I am trying to put the case as I see it on behalf of the people who are being robbed and callously exploited by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and when I ask that these people may have the protection of this House, in my concluding sentence, I think I have a right to put their case forward. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite will do such things when they come here in comfortable expensive clothes, live on good food and good wine, and smoke expensive cigars, and then make a proposal like this to exploit and callously rob poor women and children.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I have not been much impressed by the explanation which has been given about the operation of the Act of 1924. The reply which we have had with regard to the laying of these Regulations on the Table of the House was that in the 1924 Act Regulations to be made by the Minister there was no provision whatever that these Regulations should be laid upon the Table. That is perfectly correct, but, with all deference to the hon. Gentleman, may I draw his attention to the Regulations under the Act of 1924, as against these Regulations which govern the payment of those who are insured and have to have extended benefit. In the Act of 1924, three distinct provisions were made with regard to Regulations. One was in regard to the power to make Regulations with respect to the appointment of a personal representative of a deceased or insane person. That has practically nothing to do with Regulations regarding the payment of benefit. The second 763 provision was with regard to persons working partly by day and partly at night, and the third had reference to a change in the insurance year. All of these were Regulations dealing with questions of a minor character, upon which there could be nothing but unanimity, or almost unanimity, of opinion.
With regard to the Regulations with which we are dealing at the present time, I say again that there is all the difference in the world, because the Regulations which we are asking should be laid on the Table for 20 days have to deal, and will deal, with the instructions of the Minister in regard to payments of varying character. It is quite easy to conceive, and I believe it will be the case, from what has been said by the Minister him self, that there will be discrimination between insured persons. For instance in the case of, say, a young man of 22. who has parents with whom he lives, it is conceivable that a Regulation may be made that he will be entitled to extended benefit, because he is no longer a minor, but an adult, and his parents have no legal claim upon him, nor has he any legal claim upon his parents, but that a young man aged 20 years and 11 months may find a Regulation made against him stating that ho will not be entitled to extended benefit, because it will be assumed that his parents will be able to keep him. That is a conceivable, logical case. I do not know whether Regulations of that character will be made, but I think I might say to the Minister that we have a perfect right to know what these Regulations are. It has been stated that they will be placed in the Library, but that, obviously, is not quite sufficient, and I am quite certain that, if the right hon. Gentleman were dealing with a question of this character from an individual business point of view, he would never agree to a provision like this, but would demand to see exactly what the provisions were that were going to govern his business.
I venture to say that we have a perfect right to know in this House what those Regulations are before they begin to apply, or, if they begin to apply while the House is not in Session, as soon as ever the House returns it ought to have an opportunity of examining, and, if it likes, pronouncing upon, these Regulations, 764 whatever they may be. I submit that both parties on this side of the House have made out a reasonable case on be-half of these whom we seek to represent. I am quite convinced that, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side were sitting here, they would not be prepared to sit still while Regulations were going to be passed and were going to come into force of which they could have no knowledge whatever. Therefore. I submit that we have a perfect right to see what these Regulations are before they come into force, or, if they come into force during the Recess, we ought on our return to have an opportunity of examining them and seeking by prayer to get His Majesty to remove them if we think they are not right.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
As I read this provision, it gives authority to the Minister to decide whether or not a particular person shall receive benefit and that authority may conceivably be in the form of a Regulation. There is power under the principal Act to make Regulations generally for the purpose of carrying the Act into effect, and the principal Act and this Measure are to be read as one Act, so I take it there will be nothing to prevent the Minister, if he wishes, from giving his general authority by Regulations. The Parliamentary Secretary, who has now left the House, said a few minutes ago that he objected to the procedure of Regulations, because, he said, a Regulation was so rigid, and was part of the Act of Parliament. I should have thought that in a matter of this kind, when we have taken away the existing statutory right to benefit from these classes of cases, something more or less rigid was needed when you are cutting off whole classes of persons from benefit. It seems to me that the fact that the authority would be of a rigid nature, which could be critically examined and really made part of the Act, would be just what we ought to demand, and what the House ought to desire. After all, the effect of this authorisation is going to be quite as decisive as to whether a particular class of person is or is not going to receive benefit as any statutory limitation which exists in any of the Acts to-day. One might as well say, as it seems to me, that all the qualifications for unemployment benefit in all the Unemployment Insurance Acts should be 765 decided by the Minister by directions, which, I understand, are to be exposed in the Smoking Room or the Tea Room or some other place of refreshment—I refer to something that was said by the Parliamentary Secretary a few minutes ago.
That is not quite enough. What we are asking is that the demarcation, which is made between persons who may or may not receive benefit, should be definitely made rigid and decisive, and that the House should have control over it. It was said that the circumstances might frequently vary, that you wanted to be elastic, but I cannot understand how that can be the case. The provision runs:The Minister may, if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, he considers it expedient in the public interest so to do, authorise"—that a certain class of persons shall have benefit. That, surely, is not a matter which can vary from week to week or from day to day. Surely, the decision which the Minister would give as to whether a particular class, say the class of young persons referred to earlier in the Debate to-day, are or are not to receive benefit, is a decision which he will make, at any rate, for a period of several months, if not for a year. It is not a thing, surely, on which he is going to change his mind from day to day. I assume, rightly I think, that the right hon. Gentleman is a gentleman of discretion and judgment, and that his successors will be also, and that they are not going to change their minds from hour to hour or from day to day as to what constitutes a proper right to receive benefit. If a Regulation can be made, the Minister would scarcely argue that it should not be laid on the Table of the House. The Regulations which are made under the principal Act, and the Regulations which are made under Section 35 of the Act of 1920, had all to be laid on the Table of this House, and the provisions are precisely the same as those in this Amendment.
Therefore, the whole question really boils itself down to whether you think it is necessary to have Regulations, or whether in this matter it is safe to give the Minister unfettered power to give directions from day to day. As the Clause is actually worded, it would appear that he might even direct that one individual 766 shall have benefit. It does not even refer to classes. It says:The Minister may, if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, he considers it expedient in the public interest so to do, authorise that person to receive benefit.So that, of two persons of the same class, one might get benefit and the other might not, at the arbitrary dictation of the Minister. Surely, the saner, fairer and more democratic way of dealing with the situation would be to make general Regulations stating the ground on which in the public interest a class of persons should or should not receive benefit, and use that authority in a general way, making it part of the Act by Regulation, and changing it, if you will, without coming back to Parliament—which there is power to do if it be a Regulation—but abstaining from any suggestion of being autocratic and issuing directions for classes or individuals from day to day. I should have thought the Minister would welcome an Amendment to that effect. I quite agree the Minister may say,'' As the Bill is drafted, I do not agree with you that this authority really contemplates a Regulation." I can appreciate that argument being made in a Court of law, but here, with every respect to Courts of law, we are dealing with realities. If the Minister thinks the proposal of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, is a sound one, that the Regulations should be laid on the Table of the House, he will not hesitate to put in, even at this late hour, a consequential Amendment saying this authorisation shall be by Regulation.
I do not know if we are to have a reply or not. Perhaps the Minister does not think what I am saying is worthy of it. But if he is moved to reply to what I am saying, I am sure he will not make this point against me or the hon. Member, that this authority is not by Regulation. The two things are really one. The Amendment asks for the Regulation to be laid on the Table. That assumes that the authority is to be made by Regulation. The general principle is that the House shall continue to have control. You are really here not dealing with a minor point of directing a particular executive or administrative act. You are deciding whether a whole class of persons shall or shall not receive unemployment benefit. As that is done by Regulation under the principal Act, so we 767 ask that it should be done here. The Under-Secretary said something about the Act of 1924. The Act of 1924 cave a statutory unqualified right to benefit in every case, and the question of Regulations or authority or direction defining who is to have benefit and who is not cannot arise when the whole thing is statutory. The Act of 1924 has nothing whatever to do with the case. The whole question is, Are people to be cut off from benefit in classes by a mere ipse dixit or an arbitrary decision of the Minister, or are we to have a proper Regulation which may be criticised and treated as of statutory sanction?
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Major CRAWFURD
I wish to urge the Amendment on the right hon. Gentleman simply from the point of view of House of Commons' control over questions of public policy. I do not want to refer to any particular Regulations which might be made under this Clause. I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the powers with which he is going to be endowed under this Clause, and to the position to which that reduces the House of Commons, which, after all, is supposed to be the sovereign authority in matters of legislation. I should also like to draw attention to the fact, as I believe it to be, that neither in Committee nor, so far, on the Floor of the House, has the Government made the slightest concession on this Rill to Amendments which have been put forward, both by hon. Members above the Gangway and, more particularly, by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson). [Interruption.] I say "more particularly," not in any offensive sense but because he happens to have taken part, both upstairs and downstairs. If there is anything offensive in the word, I will alter it and use the word "generally." This adamant attitude of the Government is taken up with regard to a Measure which has received fierce opposition from Members on this side of the House. I should like to make the Amendment a test case of the Government's readiness to meet a genuine grievance under the terms of the Bill they have drawn. My hon. Friend behind me and the right hon. Gentleman, who has just sat down, have both drawn attention to the very wide powers conferred on the 768 Minister under the terms of Clause 1 The words, "the Minister may, if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case," are the only qualifying words put into the Bill which bind the discretion of the Minister in granting or withholding the benefit. I cannot conceive language vesting a more arbitrary power in any Minister of the Crown on a subject which unquestionably arouses very deep feelings and affects a large number of the population. I understand the defence offered by the Under-Secretary for the refusal to accept the Amendment was that if it were embodied in the Bill it would be more difficult for the Minister who has these powers to adapt the Regulations from day to day. In moving the Amendment we are not considering that contingency at all. What we are considering is that the Bill provides very considerable alterations in the method of dealing with the whole of the vast question of unemployed benefit, and changes just as great as these may be carried out under the provisions of the Bill without any effective opportunity arising in the House of debating them or putting the other side of the case. You could not have a wider and more arbitrary power than is given under the language of this Bill. By giving that arbitrary power you enable the right hon. Gentleman, or any of his successors, to make what amounts to a vast change in public, policy without any control whatever by the House of Commons, and it is on that constitutional point that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, even at this stage, to reconsider his decision and to give us the Amendment.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
I wish I could accept the Amendment with fairness to the administration and, as I think, to the claimant, but I fear really I cannot. If it were possible I should have been glad to do it, exactly in the same spirit that I am putting down an Amendment myself, when it comes to a place where it can properly be done on Clause 4, page 4. May I refer to the points at issue? I am anxious to do anything in my power to secure that there should be publicity. I am not wishing to hide anything from any Member of the House. I am not certain whether the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this in my absence. On a previous occasion the right hon. 769 Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) dealt with a point exactly parallel with this, and he said the great thing required was publicity, and he was satisfied on that occasion with any Regulations of this kind being placed in the Library. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary has already stated that we are ready and anxious, when anybody expresses a wish, to send him any Directions of this kind that may be made, so that, at least, nothing shall be hidden.
As regards what has been called the autocratic or arbitrary use of this power, it is very easy to make a charge of that kind, but there has never been any complaint when the same power of discretion has been in existence that there has been autocratic or arbitrary use of it. Upstairs in Committee, we had strange and contradictory arguments used by different members of the Committee. One objected because he said he would not mind what the Minister did, but he was afraid of the arbitrary action of the public officials. Another said that if he knew that he would be in the hands of the officials of the Department he would not mind, but it was the Minister that he really objected to. Those types of objection about arbitrariness destroy one another. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because one hon. Member said that he was perfectly prepared to leave it in the hands of the Minister, while the other said that if the power was in the hands of the Minister he would not be satisfied.
The proof of the pudding has really been in the eating. This power has been in operation for a long time, and there has been no question about arbitrariness in its use. The real safeguard against that, is the publicity which we are perfectly willing to afford. The real objection that I understand has been made against it was made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who said that it ought to be a Regulation like other Regulations. If he will refer to the original Act, and to the kind of Regulation contemplated in that Act—I think it is in Section 35—he will find that those Regulations are Regulations which are admittedly rigid, and which could be laid down, as a rule, like a Statute. The case with regard to these Regulations is that if they are laid down with reference to certain classes of people—it may well be that hon. Members opposite do not agree 770 to them being laid down in regard to certain classes of people; but we are dealing with the question of Regulations—an individual case may come up which under any Regulation might be a case of hardship. It is with that point precisely that I want to be able to deal without too great rigidity. I am thinking of the case quite apart from whether hon. Members opposite and I agree as regards the class of case.
Suppose it does apply to a class; with regard to young men living with their parents. There may be exceptional cases which are out of the general category. There may be a case of sickness or the case of a cripple. That is the reason why we want to have power to administer the rule with as much flexibility as possible. It is on behalf of the claimant, and to see that there should not be over-rigidity in dealing with cases which ought to be excepted from the general class, because of some such qualification or condition, that I ask for this power. It is for that reason that I ask hon. Members opposite in the interests of the claimants themselves to allow the flexibility for which I ask, and not to press this Amendment.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I must ask my right hon. Friend to excuse me. I must leave the. House, but it is not out of discourtesy. He will realise the reason.
§ Mr. SHAW
I realise that the right hon. Gentleman must go. This Amendment is essential in the interests of the insured people. We have heard a great deal of the Minister's intentions, but we cannot take the Minister's intentions. What we have to take is the Bill that gives the Minister power to deal with a quarter of a million of people, and to refuse our grant benefits at his discretion. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that he wants power so that he can have elasticity to provide for the claimants in a beneficent way. The Clause deals with the claimants in an anti-beneficent way, and we cannot accept his statement that his intentions towards the insured persons are good, when the Bill says that the Government's intentions towards the insured persons are bad. Because we 771 cannot accept the statement that the right hon. Gentleman's intentions are good, when the Bill's intentions are bad, I shall certainly support the Amendment if my hon. Friends press it to a Division.
§ Captain BENN
A reason why this Amendment should be pressed to a Division was given in the attempt of the Minister to defend the Clause. I do not think any thinner argument has ever been put forward. We are asking for a very simple thing. The Minister will still have power to make these' Regulations, and when he has made them and they are presented to this House, all we ask is that we should not be required simply to endorse them, but that we should have the power to pass an Address regarding them if we have a majority. That would not cost much money, and it is not a demand inconsistent with the self-respect of the House of Commons. His defence is, "I want this power in order to be kind. I am anxious to consider hard cases, and if you ask me to lay Regulations, I shall not be able to give free play to my kindly instincts." Did anyone ever hear such nonsense? If he wants latitude for special cases, that could be met by inserting in the Regulations such words as "Except where the Minister otherwise decides."
The plain fact is that with things as they are to-day, we are afraid that he will use the discretion much too harshly. We desire that these Regulations should be laid, and that we should have the power to move an Address in regard to them in the middle of the night. That is what it will amount to. Why should the Attorney-General be afraid of a minority, a small minority, moving an Address against the Regulations. It gives a little ventilation of grievances. Then he can bring in his hundreds of silent and absent voters to vote us down. Whereas the Government can plead legitimately against Amendments which involve large financial issues, they cannot plead against this Amendment, because it is nothing but the self-respect and control of the House of Commons that is involved in it. The Government will be well advised to allow it to be added to the Bill.
§ Mr. VIANT
I desire to express my opposition to this Clause, and my 772 intentions to support the Amendment. In order that one may appreciate the spirit behind this Amendment, one has to take into consideration the purpose of the Bill as a whole. The Bill is brought forward with a desire to effect economy.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We have had a long discussion on the Clause as a whole, and must not go back on that. We are now dealing with the detailed point.
§ Mr. VIANT
I have no desire to go back on the Clause, but this Amendment is moved wholly with the view of endeavouring to be sure that the kindness which the Minister of Labour has said he desires to exercise being embodied in the Regulations. We also desire that those who are affected by unemployment shall have the assurance at least that the Regulations which are issued to the rota committees are of such a kind that every kindness that can be expressed shall be expressed by those committees, and furthermore that due consideration shall be given to the cause of the individual being unemployed. It is within the recollection of the House that in the early part of this Session Regulations were issued, and on previous occasions in Debates in this House many hon. Members have had occasion to draw attention to the spirit which permeated the Regulations issued to the various Labour Exchanges and rota committees, and if this Amendment were carried it would at least avoid anything of that kind taking place, or if it did take place, prevent it from operating for any great length of time.
It would give the House the opportunity of assuring those who are likely to be affected by the Act that due attention is being given to their interests. The statutory right has already been taken away. The discretion of the Minister is to be exercised, and, even if we are prepared to accept the statement of the present Minister, it is not certain that he is going to remain in office for any undue length of time, and, having conferred these powers on the Minister, this House ought to insist upon retaining the right of reviewing the Regulations, and having a power to amend them. In order that that shall be done I desire to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I view with considerable alarm the determined fight 773 which the Minister is making to preserve the rights which he claims under this Bill. It is interesting to notice the very wide discrepancy of authorities on this matter as to the number of persons who will be affected by the Regulations and by the Orders which the Minister will bring into operation. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour stated this afternoon that this Clause will affect about 70,000 persons, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has declared more than once, and his statement has in no sense been challenged, that the number of persons to be affected will be 250,000. If these Regulations are to affect the welfare of 250,000 persons then they become a matter of some moment. Again and again we have been assured of the good intentions of the Minister. It has been said that the pathway to Gehenna is paved with good intentions, but I have never yet heard it said that the quality of the material used for pavement made any difference in the destination, and in this case I am afraid that we cannot accept the good intentions as being at all commensurate with the value to be placed upon the fact that the Regulations must be laid on the Table of this House so that they may be challenged by Members.
§ I am saying what I am saying, frankly, because I do not trust the Minister. It is my firm conviction that this Bill has been introduced to achieve some form of economy which, to my mind, is entirely false, and the strenuous attempt which the Government are making to achieve economy in this particular field makes me suspicious of the Regulations which they will adopt. I am here to do what I can to protect the interests of the public authorities in my constituency who are going to be affected very sadly indeed by the passing of this Bill. I am quite convinced that any saving which the Government may make by the harsh operation of this Clause will react very badly on the very much harassed local authorities which I have the honour to represent. There is no economy which can be effected except so far as the Government are concerned. Other people will have to pay the bill. We want to have the right to say in this House that in our opinion the Regulations are ill-framed and badly advised. Therefore, I hope that this Amendment will be carried.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 144; Noes, 244.