HC Deb 14 April 1926 vol 194 cc263-89

Amendment proposed [13th April] In page 3, line 35, to leave out the word"twenty-seven,"and to insert instead thereof the word"twenty-eight."—[Mr. Mackinder.]

Question again proposed,"That the word twenty-seven ' stand part of the Clause."


I think the large number of letters received by hon. Members during the Recess, representing hundreds of thousands of members of approved societies, quite justify hon. Members on both sides of the House in making an appeal to the Minister of Health to postpone this Clause for a period of 12 months. It has been urged that the members of approved societies have not had an opportunity of examining these proposals. If we are to be given an opportunity of looking into this matter, and particularly the effect upon the more unfortunate members who are stricken down with illness, they should be given a chance of expressing their opinion in no uncertain manner. Approved society members and approved societies have expressed themselves very forcibly in regard to these proposals during the past few days The Minister of Health fully understands the whole problem, and he is aware of what is taking place. I think the financial situation justifies the Minister of Health in ignoring the suggestion which has been made to him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that unless he collects this money during the early period of office of the present Government there will he no money for him to disburse during the last part of his term of office.

I think the Minister of Health ought to give this mite of justice to the millions of people who have had no chance of obtaining any of the benefits which the sum of money now being taken away from them would confer. Although the Amendment only appeals for an adjournment for 12 months, I submit that the effect of this Clause would be to bring such pressure to bear on the Minister of Health that if he allows this Amendment to be carried there would be no possibility of the right hon. Gentleman repeating the same proposal in years to come. We gather than, based upon 1924 payments, this extra imposition upon approved societies will mean a reduction in potential benefits of approximately 3s. per person. When the percentage of the people who fall ill is brought to the normal level, the amount available for each individual case is going to be considerably reduced by the operation of this particular Clause. It seems to me that the extra consideration which will be given to this Clause by postponing it, as provided for by the Amendment, would tend to cause some hesitation on the part of the Minister of Health before imposing this additional payment. This Amendment calla for a very necessary delay. It merely postpones for 12 months this robbery with violence which is now taking place by the Minister of Health and his colleagues. I hope the Minister of Health will try and justify this Clause when he rises to reply to the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman told us in previous Debates that we could not refer so much to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who deals with things in a general way, and that it was left to the Minister in charge of this Bill to give detailed justification of the proposals contained in this Measure.

Notwithstanding the many hours and days that this Bill has been under review, there has been only a few excuses put forward and very few reasons to justify these proposals. I would like the Minister of Health to give us a detailed explanation, giving real reasons instead of excuses why this Bill has been sub-mated to the House. I think this imposition is grossly unfair and not. at all equitable. It is giving no credit to approved societies who have administered their funds in a very efficient manner, and it is tending to produce the opposite sort of administration if the Ministry are going to take advantage of this splendid work the approved societies have put in over a long period. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to consider the advisability of postponing this part of the worst Bill I have ever seen introduced during the past three or four years for 12 months in order to give the 15,000,000 members of the approved societies and the electors in West Ham and all parts of the country an opportunity of indicating really what they think about a Government which is proposing to rob friendly society funds because those in charge of them have seen fit to administer those funds in a very efficient manner.


There must be something very wrong about a Measure when the Government have to proceed with a Bill of this kind with such indecent haste. Everybody has been complaining about this business being rushed upon the House. It has been argued that less than three weeks notice has been given to the House of Commons that anything of this kind was going to be introduced, and the Bill was only in the hands of hon. Members a few days before we were called upon to discuss it. I submit that to bring in a Bill of this kind breaking a contract applying to 15,000,000 people and taking £2,800,000 a year from those people, in face of the fact that the Royal Commission recommended that certain money should he expended in certain directions for the benefit of those 15,000,000 people is positively indecent. This Amendment. is not asking too much in requesting that this Clause should be postponed for at least a year. I would like to call attention to the difference of treatment between the Report to which I have referred and the Report of the Coal Commission. We have a Report from the Commission which has dealt with this business and it is a voluminous one which has not been published very long, and which I should have thought the Minister of Health would have recommended and encouraged hon. Members to study carefully had he not. been so anxious to get. hold of the money. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman's duty to encourage hon. Members to study that Report. In spite of all these facts, we are asked to rush this Measure through the House in a few days.

Let me contrast what happened in the case of the Report of the Coal Commission. In that case, the Prime Minister himself encouraged and advised everybody in connection with that business not to come to a hasty decision but go very gently and slowly on with the business and digest all that is in the Report and not come to a hasty decision which might be a wrong one. In this ease, the Government are following exactly the opposite course. If it was good for the Members of the House and the public and the Government to go slowly in regard to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Mining Industry, it was equally good for them to go slowly in regard to this particular Report which has just been issued dealing with this problem. In this case, there is a vast difference in the procedure. There was a great necessity for money, and it had to be got from some where. Here is a possibility of the Government getting the money, and, consequently, we are told that this Bill must go through before the introduction of the Budget. I submit that the Government have not made out a good case for getting this Measure through immediately. No less than 15,000,000 people have not had a reasonable chance of getting to know what these proposals arc going to cost them.

Everybody employed in an administrative position with regard to National Health Insurance schemes has been complaining of the rush in this matter, and they have not had time to come to a careful decision. I submit that it must take weeks and months for the 15,000,000 people affected to consider these proposals, to hold conferences with approved societies, and to enable those decisions to be sent in to the Ministry of Health and the Government. It takes an enormous time to come to a careful decision on a matter of this character affecting so vitally 15,000,000 people, and it is not asking too much that they should have at least a few months to consider the effect of these proposals. As a matter of fact, they have only had a few days. It does not seem to me to be the desire of the Government that these people should have a chance of considering these matters. I feel sure that if such an opportunity had been given to them the result would have been of such a character that the Government might have had to withdraw some of the Clauses of this Bill.

7.0 P.M.

This indecent haste leads one to assume that there might be something in that. I appeal to the Minister, in view of the fact that he has not given a single concession of any description yet, to postpone the operation of the Clause of the Bill for at least 12 months. In addition to giving the Minister and the Government an idea of what the insured contributors think about the Bill, it would also give them time to consider what effect the financial Clauses of the Bill would have on the insurance scheme generally. I appeal to him to give this concession and to allow the matter to go over from 1927 to 1928 in order to give the 15,000,000 contributors, who are so vitally affected, an opportunity of saying what they think.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)

Although the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T Williams) seemed to think that I was not paying sufficient attention to the arguments which he was addressing, I can assure him and hon. Members opposite that I have listened very carefully to the whole course of this Debate, in the hope that I might hear some argument which might show me that those who are moving and supporting the Amendment clearly understood the effect of what it was that they were asking. Those who were present last night. and again this afternoon will agree with me that such arguments as have been used have been directed, not so much to the postponement. of the Clause, as to the withdrawal of the Clause altogether. We have been told over and over again that this is an unjust charge. in spite of the fact that the approved societies. through the Consultative Council. recognised the justice of their meeting out of their funds the cost of medical benefit, as well as other benefits. Notwithstanding that, hon. Members opposite have devoted themselves to requesting that we should withdraw the Clause altogether.


Will you consult the Consultative Council now that Clause I has been passed? You will not answer that.


I hope the hon. Member will extend the same courtesy to me that I do towards him. I am going to try and devote my few observations to the actual Amendment before the Committee. Hon. Members opposite seem to think it is quite possible to postpone the application of Clause 2 for a year in order that approved societies may look round. Let me explain to the Committee what the position is with regard to the sum of 13s. mentioned in this Clause. Under the main Act, there was provided 9s. 6d. plus 6d., making 10s., as the cost of medical benefit and administration expenses. Now that will be entirely insufficient. It was necessary in 1924 to make sonic arrangement under which the difference between this 10s. and the actual cost of medical benefit and administration expenses should be met. There were negotiations and discussions between the then Government and the approved societies. I understand that the approved societies were asked to meet this difference out of their benefit fund, and they refused. What did the Government then propose to do? Did they suggest that they should meet it out of the Exchequer Funds? Not at all. Finally, a way out was found by taking from the Unclaimed Stamps Sales Account certain moneys which were unused and utilising those moneys to make up the difference between the amount provided under the Act and the actual cost of the benefit and administration. That arrangement was embodied 'in an Act passed in 1924, called the Cost of Medical Benefit Act. Under that arrangement the full cost of these expenses has been met up to the present without making any charge on the Exchequer. Part of it. has been provided out of the benefit funds, and the other out of these unclaimed stamps.

What would be the effect of postponing the proposal in this Clause, that in future the whole of the cost should be charged on this Fund? The effect would be that there would be no statutory provision whatsoever for the difference between the cost and the 9s. 6d. and 6d. provided for in the Act of 1924. The only effect of accepting the Amendment would be that the whole scheme would come to an end, because there would he no source from which this difference could be found. That. is an impossible position, and it is quite clear that hon. Members had not realised what the position was when they put the Amendment down. If they have realised it, perhaps they will explain how they, propose to find the difference. Do bon. Members opposite think that we can continue to make up this difference out of the same Fund which has hitherto made it up? If so, I can tell them that that is not the case. The Fund will be exhausted by the end of the year. There is no more money in the Fund. We are in the position, that, unless the Clause is passed in its present form, the whole scheme will be thrown into chaos and disorder, and we shall have to begin again to try and find some new arrangement. In those circumstances, I hope the Committee will see that it is quite impossible to accept the Amendment.


Will the right lion. Gentleman give a reply to the specific question I asked?


The right hon. Gentleman has been at some pains to tell us the terrible financial result of carrying the Amendment. If we carry our Amendment, we shall be in exactly the same position as we would have been had not the Chancellor of the Exchequer determined to raid these funds and had he not. produced this Bill. You may have to make some new arrangements at the end of the next financial year, but you would be in exactly the same position as if you had not introduced this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman might have to bring in another kind of Bill to meet the situation, but not this particular Bill. This Bill is not brought in for the purpose of getting us over a difficulty, but for the purpose of finding money to enable the Chancellor to balance his Budget. There is no getting away from that, and it is no use the right hon. Gentleman attempting to camouflage it in that fashion. We have heard a good deal during the discussions as to this not being robbery and not being plunder, but that argument. bears the same relation to the one which the right hon. Gentleman has just used. What is the object of this Bill and of this Clause? It is to get money from somewhere which would have been need by somebody for some other purpose and to that extent it is perfectly certain that somebody is being robbed of something they would have had but for this Bill.

I was discussing this Bill with a friend outside who is not always so Parliamentary in his language as most of us in this House are obliged to be when we are speaking in public. He said he did not understand why there should be a lot of talk about this Bill, and he said it was a Pygmalion swindle. I use the word"Pygmalion,"because I must not use the other word. I think it expressed the position in a very able manner. Another friend reminded me that there was in the old days in the East End of London a firm which we knew by the title "Skinnem and Bestem, Ltd." I should call the Government in relation to this Bill "Skinnem and Bestem, Unlimited." When I hear the speeches of hon. Members opposite, when they do wake up and deliver speeches, they remind me of the sort of excuse that is always made by the person who has been trying to swindle you when you suddenly discover what he is trying to do

The right hon. Gentleman has had the audacity, or effrontery, or courage to say again to-night what was said by his Parliamentary Secretary yesterday, that the Consultative Committee had approved this proposal. Of course it has, but the Consultative Committee, as he well knows, was asked to give its opinion on these different Clauses, and they denounced the operative Clause and refused to give any consideration to it at all. When that was brought up last week the right hon. Gentleman very blandly"smarmed"it over, but to-night he says that this is exactly what the societies have agreed to. If you take their advice when they agree with something you propose, why do you not take their advice when they disagree with something infinitely more important? It shows that this is just a war of words and an attempt to defend something that is perfectly indefensible. The right. 'hon. Gentleman says that we have not given any reasons why we should postpone the operation of this Clause. He seems to have overlooked the fact that every speaker for the postponement has argued that the Clause and, indeed, the whole Bill should be postponed in order that the people concerned may give their opinion on this proposition now that you have carried Clause 1.

I do not understand hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side not agreeing with us about this. I am sorry that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not here. He would remember, as others of my right hon. Friends will remember, that, during the discussion on the Home Rule Bill brought in by the Asquith Government, the whole argument put forward against that Bill was that the Government had no mandate for bringing it in. I would ask what mandate the Government have for bringing in this Bill. I read all their speeches that were reported during the Election. I do that because I like to know the stupid things which they say, and which furnish arguments for us to use against them. I particularly read the very honest speeches of our very honest Prime Minister, especially those dealing with economy, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman, or anyone on that. side., to stand up and say that in any single speech that they made, or in any document that they issued, they told the workers that they were going to plunder these services under the National Insurance Fund. They talked about economy here, there and everywhere, but never the kind of economy by plunder of which this Bill consists. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman, or someone on his behalf, ought. to stand up and tell us when it was that they got any mandate for bringing in a Measure of this kind.

I have very vivid recollections of sitting up night after night listening to the late Mr. Bonar Law, the present Lord Chancellor, and other leading lights that were on these benches in those days, protesting that the House had no right to deal with the fortunes of 4,000,000 people in Ireland without a distinct mandate for doing so. That may he a good or a had argument in regard to legislation, but the people who used that argument were the people whose successors now sit. on the opposite side of the House. Here you hove something dealing with money that is the property of 15.,000,000 people. It deals with the property of ex-soldiers and others for whom you all profess to have a great admiration, but you have not considered one bit what those people might have to say about this. The reason why we want the. operation of this Clause postponed is in order that public opinion outside may have, the fullest opportunity of expressing itself. I believe that every Member of the House has received to-day a document from an organisation representing something like 14,000,000 insured persons, protesting against this Bill being proceeded with in any way whatsoever. We have received that document, and that is our mandate for asking that this Clause shall be postponed.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that he wants reasons. I would like his colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to stand up and answer these questions: Where is your mandate? Where did you tell the electors that you were going to economise by plundering the resources of the Health Insurance societies? Where did you get your authority to do any of the things contained in this Clause, or in any other part of the Bill? I say, further, that, if a vote were taken in any constituency in the country, I am perfectly certain that it would be an overwhelming vote against this proposal. It is not real economy at all; it is simply, in the name of economy, fleecing people who are very poor, whose pennies have built up this Fund, and who are not. able at this moment, and were not able at the General Election, to give any sort of answer on the subject. because it was not put to them. For these reasons we want the Clause postponed.


The right hon. Gentleman, in his reply to various Members on this side, said, I think, three things, which perhaps he will allow me to paraphrase in three sentences. He said, first of all,"You who have moved this Amendment do not understand what it is that. you are asking." He said, secondly," The effect of this Amendment, if carried, will he that there will not be funds to carry out the services which are necessary after the conclusion of the present year. "He said, thirdly, "The arguments that have been addressed to the Committee are arguments, not for the postponement, hut for, if anything, the complete withdrawal of the proposal."That, I think, represents not unfairly what the right hon. Gentleman said.

If he will allow me, I would like to put to him, at any rate, one argument for postponing the Clause. It is also, of course, an argument for withdrawing but it is particularly an argument for postponement. The right hon. Gentleman, in his, as always, perfectly lucid style, has explained that the necessary increase in these charges which was made in 1924 has been borne by a fund which, as I gather from his statement, has accumulated and was available, but which has now been used, and which, therefore, will not he available in future. Then he went on to say that in that case, if this Amendment were accepted or carried, there would he no money with which to carry on these services. How do we stand in face of that argument? Let me put it to the right hon. Gentleman in this way. We on this side are opposing this Bill altogether, because we think it is a bad Bill. The Government are engaged in trying to find money because they are short, as many other people have been before. The right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, is not going to accept the position that under a Conservative Government there must always be a shortage in the Exchequer. If he is not going to accept that position, then he must believe that the shortage of money, the financial stringency, is temporary and not permanent. I am sure he will accept that. One of the gravest complaints against this Bill—because I am sure that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor his colleague would defend these proposals on their merits alone— —




Let me put it in another way. Were there no financial difficulty, this Bill, I think, would not be brought, forward


This Clause, which charges upon the societies the whole cost of medical benefit, must be differentiated from 'Clause 1, because this Clause follows directly the recommendations of the Royal Commission.


I quite understand the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman draws, but I was for the moment—I hope I was not out of order—referring to the whole Bill, and I was saying that, if there had been no financial stringency, the Bill would not have been brought forward. One of our great objections to this Bill and to this Clause is that, in order to meet what is admittedly a temporary difficulty, the Government are making a permanent change which is going to affect adversely the poorest class of the population of the country. That is the reason why we object to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman now says to us," That may be so, but this Clause follows the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and it was agreed to by the consultative committee."The right hon. Gentleman said that, but he does not for a moment assert that the consultative committee agreed to this Clause, having in view the fact that Clause 1 of the Bill has been passed.

I will let that pass, but what I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: This Clause does not merely withhold money. Clause 1 withholds money from the friendly societies which, up to now, the Government have been paying. It is not, if you like, to use that form of words, taking money away, but it is ceasing to give money which up to now you have given. The net result is the same, but it is stated in a different form. Clause 2, however, actually takes from the friendly societies money for purposes for which, up to now, they have not been supplying money. That is the difference between the two Clauses. The point I want to put—and it is a point not only for withdrawal but for postponement—is this: Will not the right hon. Gentleman at this stage make us some concession, and give some evidence that the Government have the interest of the friendly societies at heart? They are taking, by Clause 1, £2,800,000 a year—as I have said, as a permanent measure to meet a temporary difficulty. Will they not postpone the operation of this Clause? If, at the end of this year, they find their difficulty was indeed temporary, they can make to the friendly societies this concession of £120,000 a year, for which we are now asking, as some kind of offset against the £2,800,000 which they are taking by Clause 1. It is a very small concession to make, and I plead for it on that ground, and also on the ground which has been urged by the hon. Member for Don-caster (Mr. Paling). I think that what ho said with regard to the coal industry, the coal crisis and the Coal Commission was very true. The Prime Minister pleaded for delay so that people might understand what was going to be done. If this Clause be postponed, the country, at any rate, will have an opportunity of realising what the Government are doing. On these two grounds I venture to urge the right hon. Gentleman, even now, to see his way to meet us on this Amendment,.


The right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, asked us for arguments in favour of this Amendment which we are pressing. I think, if I may say so with all respect to him, that the best argument for the Amendment came from his own lips in the very short reply that he vouchsafed to us. Those of us who have sat here while the right hon. Gentleman has carried through very ably a number of difficult Bills in Committee, know that, if there is half an inch of argument to be found anywhere in favour of his own side, he can safely be trusted to make the very best of that half-inch, and, when in this case he fails so lamentably to do anything but indulge in what I say, again with all respect, was sheer political sophistry, it is a very strong argument on our behalf. He said in his reply, and his colleague the Parliamentary Secretary has by various facial gestures emphasised that fact while the hon. and gallant Member for West Walthamstow (Major Crawfurd) was speaking, that there is no need for further time for the friendly societies to consider this Clause, because they have already agreed to it. I will give way at once if either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to put this matter more clearly to us, but do we understand that the approved societies, who are concerned in this Measure, have agreed that, Clause 1 having become a definite part of the administration, they are prepared unhesitatingly to accept Clause 2 as well? Would it not he stating the case more accurately to say that the friendly societies took the line that they had no very serious object ion to Clause 2, but that it was Clause 1 which aroused their fears to a very great extent, and that Clause 2 only becomes objectionable in the administration when it is allied to the very unfair methods proposed in Clause 1?

The approved societies, representing, as has been said before, 15,000,000 very small people in the financial sense, have not had time to investigate, to examine, or to express the final verdict of their electorate upon this matter. Only this morning we received the following communication from a number of friendly societies which I am sure Members all over the House will recognise are interested in this Clause. A conference wad held yesterday representing the following associations of approved societies. The National Conference of Friendly Societies. the Association of Approved Societies, the Joint Committee of Approved Societies, the National Union for Insurance, the National Federation of Rural Approved Societies, the National Federation of Employés Approved Societies, the General Federation of Trade Unions, the National Association of Trade Union Approved Societies, the National Conference of Industrial Assurance Approved Societies. I am sure everyone will agree that that is a very representative and influential conference. They write to us and say: On behalf of the 14,000,000 insured persons represented by this Conference we tender our most hearty and sincere thanks for the great service which you and your party rendered during the all-night sitting on 31st March and 1st April, and earnestly hope that you will continue your valuable efforts on behalf of the compulsorily insured person so as to prevent what otherwise will be not only a breach of Parliament's undertaking, but a great injustice to the insured. That is not an opinion voiced by Members of the Labour party or of the Liberal party. It is an opinion voiced by men of all parties, and people who are not associated with any party but are working to the best of their ability for the improved efficiency of our State insurance services. It is their opinion, and they want an opportunity to voice it.

We ask the right hon. Gentleman to give more serious consideration to this Amendment than he has done yet. I know his lot is a difficult. one during the Committee stage of the Bill. He has to rush it through without consideration, and without deference to the feeling in all parties in the country, in order that the Chancellor may have a beanfeast on the 26th of this month. But in spite of that fact I would ask him—because his conciseness prevents him weaving a web of distortion round the actual facts in the. way his distinguished colleague does—to stand up for the people he represents against the machinations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not only one party, not only one section of opinion, that wants this Clause postponed and the Bill given further consideration. it has been perfectly obvious during the Debates on this Bill that, except for the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) and one or two others, no one was so mean as to do the Minister of Health credit on this Bill. Even half of his own party have carefully abstained from allowing themselves to become too closely connected with the Clause. It has been said the Prime Minister—and honour to him for it—is a very good House of Commons man, and he is remarkably often in his place considering the duties he has to fulfil. He has been conspicuously absent during the discussion of this Bill and this Clause.


That has nothing to do with the postponement. of the Clause.


I thought if I could suggest that the Prime Minister was not in a desperate haste to get it through it might. weigh with the Minister of Health and persuade him to lend a more gracious ear to our Amendment. There cannot be this tremendous and indecent and improper haste in getting it through. It is bad enough to get, elected on all sorts of red letters and red herrings, without coming here and perpetrating a deliberate fraud on great masses of people, some of whom you persuaded to vote for you at the last Election. It is going to do you harm not only with your political opponents, who would not support you any way, but with, great numbers of people who have been, unfortunately for them. your political friends in the past. The Parliamentary Secretary, whom we have so generously amused for several days, will no doubt persuade some of his friends, if he does not feel equal to it himself, to give us some serious suggestion as to why we should not at any rate, although we are a minority, go into the Division Lobby and show the people of the country that although the House of Commons robbed them it is not with the consent of the minority party here.


I feel sure the House has listened with great interest to the several arguments used in favour of the postponement of the Clause; and I wish to add a word or two in an endeavour to convince the Minister that we are really in earnest in our proposal. I am under the impression that Members of the Government are in a much better mood now than they were last night, and I shall not be a bit surprised to learn later that the right hon. Gentleman is quite willing, after the arguments he has heard, to give way on what is after all a comparatively small point. The history of this Clause is a very interesting one, and I shall deduce a few reasons why it should be postponed for at least a year beyond the date mentioned in the Clause itself. In the first place, there is no real need to hurry at all. Whatever necessity there may have been for passing Clause 1, that. necessity does not affect Clause 2 at all.

The history of medical benefit, the payment to panel doctors, and the cost of drugs and so forth is, as I said, a very interesting one. At the end of 1923 a new agreement had to be made between the Government and the doctors, and it was found then that it would be impossible apparently to pass a Measure which would make medical benefit provisions under the insurance Act a permanency. A short Act was therefore passed, called, I believe, the Medical Benefit Act, 1924, which provided that sums left in what is termed the Unclaimed Stamps Account should be used for the purpose of meeting the deficiency for the years 1924 and 1925.

There is one point in this connection that I very much desire information upon. If the right hon. Gentleman can help me, I feel sure he will, at the same time, be helping the administrators of approved societies. I have read very carefully all the documents that concern this Economy Bill, and I have failed to find out yet what was the actual sum left in this Miscellaneous and Unclaimed Stamps Account from which payments have been made towards medical benefit for the years 1924 and 1925. In fact, I have never seen yet how much money there was actually in the account at the beginning, and how much money is left now at the end of those two years. The answer to that question would he very important and affects the Amendment we are now proposing. For illustration, supposing the cost of medical benefit for those two years was £10,000,000 and there was a sum of £12,000,000 in this Central Fund—the details of which, by the way, are kept very secret. for my purpose, I have never been able to get any information at all which satisfies me as to the actual amount available for this purpose in the past. Surely if only £10,000,000 has been paid from the Fund for 1924 and 1925, there will be a balance of £2,000,000 left for 1926 and, in addition to that, if balances accrued to the Fund in the past, they will still accrue, and I want to know what is going to become of those prospective balances.

Let me carry my case further. Employers buy stamps for National Health Insurance purposes in bulk from the Post Office, and the revenue front the sale of stamps goes to the funds of the approved societies or to the general pool under the management of the Treasury and the Ministry of Health. What is going to happen under this Clause to those sums of money which fall to the general pool in what is termed the Unclaimed Stamps Account?


Clause 4.


I have read the Bill very carefully and it would help us very much if the hon. Gentleman would enlighten us a little more on the subject. There is one point I desire to combat as fiercely as a Welshman can. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health have contended that the Royal Commission, and the Consultative Council of the Ministry of Health, and in fact all the approved societies, support the Government in regard to Clause 2. Let me analyse. that contention. I agree at once that the approved societies are not unwilling at all for all the cost of medical benefit to fall upon the funds of approved societies. I agree, too, that the majority of the Consultative Council have declared in that way. I agree also that the Royal Commission has declared in that way. But what I protest against is that it is assumed that because all these bodies have agreed to the principle they have also agreed to a reduction in the State grant towards medical benefit. The right hon. Gentleman's interjection a moment or two ago gave the implication that all these bodies were favourable to Clause 2; but he forgot to mention that the principle of Clause 2 stood then on its own, without being connected by a reduction of State grant in Clause 1. Let us make that a, little clearer still. When the Royal Commission decided in favour of all the medical benefit charges falling on the funds of approved societies they had no notion of this Economy Bill. As a matter of fact, the Government have taken no heed at all of the Royal Commission's Report, except in respect of the points that suit them for the purposes of this Bill.

I am delighted to see at long last the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place. The two hon. Gentlemen who have been holding the fort so far are feeling a little said, I am sure. The right hon. Gentleman came in last evening. but only remained, strange enough. so long as we discussed the bankruptcy proposals of his Economy Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is heading right away to political bankruptcy himself, as he will find out to his regret later. Just to show that we are right in our contention on this subject, I want to point out that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health recently issued a notice to the Press. I do not know why he did so. I found it in the "Yorkshire Evening Post," and apparently it has been sent to a Press Association so that all the newspapers of the country should do the political work for the Government. The hon. Gentleman has brought a storm en his head in consequence. The hon. Gentleman, in issuing this Press notice, touches upon what is fundamental so far as we are concerned. I understand that a deputation waited upon the Minister of Health yesterday in consequence. I have been favoured with an important document which I venture to suggest touches upon the very Amendment we are now moving in the House. The names attached to this document I have just received are the names of gentlemen who are not persons administering trade union approved societies nor friendly societies; they are gentlemen; I feel sure I am right in saying, a large proportion of whom are prominent members of the Conservative party, and in spite of their politics they criticisc the action of the Conservatve Government. This is what they say: Our attention has been called to the statement issued to the Press on the:3rd instant by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health regarding the effect upon the finances of approved societies of the provisions in Clauses 1 to 7 of the Economy Bill. I would like the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to listen to this, because he is condemned on this occasion by his own friends: The statement, dealing as it does with a very intricate subject, is so misleading"— I am not sure that there will not be a change in Government after this; at any rate there ought to be— that, as actuaries interested in approved society work, we feel it incumbent upon us to record our dissent from the conclusions arrived at. These conclusions are the conclusions that the hon. Gentleman himself, possibly in conjunction with the Minister of Health, issued to the Press. It would be very interesting to know why the Parliamentary Secretary undertook to issue to the whole Press of this country a very important statement of that kind on behalf of the Government while the Minister of Health, so far as I know, was at home at the time. I have been in a Government myself, and I do not know whether it is etiquette for the Parliamentary Secretary to issue a first-class political document when his chief is probably unaware that he is doing so. He has probably no reply to make to that. They both look like the orphans of the storm on that bench, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is becoming at last very interested in all we are saying on this subject.

We propose this Amendment in order to postpone the coming into operation of Clause 2 by 12 months beyond the date which is stated in the Clause itself. I want to carry the argument a little further, because the approved societies by this postponement would undoubtedly gain a considerable sum of money. Let us reduce it to detail and see what it means. If Clause 2 be carried as it stands the approved societies during the year 1927, on medical benefit account alone, will lose a considerable sum of money, and the purport of our Amendment is that if the approved societies are to lose any money at all they shall not lose it till 1928. The approved societies are valued quinquennially. The first quinquennial period was 1912 to 1918; from 1918 to 1922 was the second quinquennial period for some of the approved societies, who have not yet received the results of the valuation. The third quinquennial period will end in respect to some of the societies in 1927. Surely it is quite a fair and reasonable suggestion we are making, that if new burdens are to be put on approved societies in respect to medical benefit, the new charges shall not begin until the commencement of the fourth valuation period. The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister have now had a chance of chatting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I remember, when the Widows' Pension Bill was before the House, the Minister

of Health was gracious enough to accept very important Amendments which were submitted to him. One or two of those Amendments which were accepted were in respect to dates. In this connection, we venture to ask the Committee to pass this Amendment.

The Government have failed to appreciate one very important factor in the situation. They complain that the charges upon the Treasury are increasing year by year, and because the charges are increasing they propose to cut them down. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, of course, the culprit behind the whole business, I am glad he is here to listen to the kind remarks we are making about him. We have no chance of convincing him. No reason will avail with him, no argument will turn him from the error of his ways; but we are doing our duty on this side of the House to the 15,000,000 insured persons of this country by trying to have this Clause postponed. I have no hesitation in saying, as I have already declared, that whatever the opinions of hon. Gentlemen may be on that side of the House in regard to the operation of this Clause now, they will find out later on, when this Clause begins to operate on the funds of the approved societies, that they will suffer from the political reaction that will set in.

The last point I wish to make is this. There is a very real chance, in fact there is a probability, that if this Clause is postponed, as we suggest it should be, there will be a General Election in the intervening period, and, if we get a General Election in that period, I feel satisfied that hon. Gentlemen who are now sitting on the other side of the. House trying to plunder the funds of approved societies will instead be sitting in an ignominious position on this side of the House.

Mr. CHAMBERLAINrose in his place, and claimed to move,"That the Question be now put."

Question put,"That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 245; Noes, 139.

Division No. 136.] AYES. [7.55 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Barbour, George (Hampstead)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Astor, Viscountess Balniel, Lord
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Gretton, Colonel John Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Grotrian, H. Brent Philipson, Mabel
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristol, N.) Power, Sir John Cecil
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Preston, William
Benn, Sir A. S. {Plymouth, Drake) Gunston, Captain D. W. Radford, E. A.
Bethel, A. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Raine, W.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper
Blades, Sir George Rowland Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Remnant, Sir James
Brass, Captain W. Harland, A. Rentoul, G. S.
Briscoe, Richard George Harrison, G. J. C. Rice, sir Frederick
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hartington, Marquess of Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ta'y)
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Haslam, Henry C. Ropner, Major L.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Hawke, John Anthony Ruggles-Brise, Major E, A.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Buckingham, Sir H. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Rye, F. G.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Henn, Sir Sydney H. Salmon, Major I.
Bullock, Captain M. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Burman, J. B. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Burton, Colonel H. W. Hills, Major John Waller Sandeman, A. Stewart
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Cadogan, Major Hon, Edward Homan, C. W. J. Sanderson, Sir Frank
Caine, Gordon Hall Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Sandon, Lord
Campbell, E. T. Hopkins, J. W. W. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavs D.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.) Hopkinson, sir A. (Eng. Universities) Savery, S. S.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Scott, sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Chadwick, sir Robert Burton Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N). Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A (Birm. W.) Hudson, U.S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n) Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Huntingfield, Lord Shepperson, E. W.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hurd, Percy A. Simms. Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Hurst, Gerald B. Skelton, A. N.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Iliffe, Sir Edward M. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Clarry, Reginald George Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dine.C.)
Clayton, G. C. Jackson, Lieut. Colonel Rt. Hon. F. S. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Jacob, A. E. Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden,E.)
Couper, J. B. Kindersley, Major Guy M. Stanley, Hon. U. f. G. (Westm'eland)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry King, Captain Henry Douglas Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Croit, Brigadier-General Sir H. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Storry-Deans, R.
Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey. Gainsbro) Little, Dr. E. Graham Stott, Lieut-Colonel W. H.
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Strickland, Sir Gerald
Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Loder, J. de V. Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Lougher, L. Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lumley, L. H. Thomson, F C. (Aberdeen, South)
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Dawson, Sir Philip MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Try on, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Drewe, C. McLean, Major A. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P
Duckworth, John McNeil, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Waddington, R.
Eden, Captain Anthony Macquisten, F. A. Wallace Captain D. E.
Edmondson, Major A. J. MacRobert, Alexander M. Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Elliot, Captain Walter E. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Wells, S. R.
Ellis, R. G. Malone, Major p. B. Wheter, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Elveden, Viscount Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Margesson, Captain D. Williams, A. M. [Cornwall, Northern)
Everard, W. Lindsay Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Meller, R. J. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Meyer, Sir Frank Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Fermoy, Lord Milne, J. S. Wardlaw Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Fielden, E. B. Mitchell, w. Foot (Saffron Walden) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Forrest, W. Moused, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Foster, Sir Harry S. Moore, Sir Newton J. Wise. Sir Fredric
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Morden, Colonel Walter Grant withers, John James
Fraser, Captain Ian Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Womersley, W. J.
Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Nalt, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph Wood, E. (Chest"r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Gaibraith, J. F. W. Neville, R. J. Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Ganzoni, Sir John Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Goff, Sir Park Nuttall, Ellis Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hen. Sir L.
Gower, Sir Robert O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Grace, John Penny, Frederick George Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
Grant, J. A. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Greene, W. P. Crawford Perring, Sir William George TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Major Cope and Lord Stanley.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Attlee, Clement Richard Bair, J.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Batey, Joseph
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Broad, F. A. Hudson. J. H. (Huddersfield) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Bromfield, William Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Bromley, J. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Sitch, Charles H.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) John, William (Rhondda, West) Smillie, Robert
Buchanan, G. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Cape, Thomas Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snell, Harry
Charleton, H. C. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Clowes, S. Kelly, W. T. Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)
Cluse, W. S. Kennedy. T. Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charies
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Kenyon, Barnet Stamford, T. W.
Compton, Joseph Kirkwood, D. Stephen, Campbell
Connolly, M. Lansbury, George Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Cove, W. G. Lawson, John James Sullivan, Joseph
Crawfurd, H. E. Lee, F. Sutton, J. E.
Davies, David (Montgomery} Lowth, T. Taylor, R. A.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Lunn, William Thomas. Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon) Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)
Day, Colonel Harry Mackinder, W. Thurtle, E.
Dennison, R. MacLaren, Andrew Tinker, John Joseph
Duncan, C. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Townend, A. E.
Dunnico, H. MacNeill-Weir, L. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Montague, Frederick Varley, Frank B.
Gibbins, Joseph Morris, R. H. Viant, S. P.
Gillett, George M. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wallhead, Richard C.
Gosling, Harry Murnin, H. Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Naylor, T. E. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Greenall, T. Owen, Major G. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Palin, John Henry Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Paling, W. Whiteley, W.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Wiggins, William Martin
Grundy, T. W. Pethick- Lawrence, F. W. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Ponsonby, Arthur Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Guest, Dr. L, Haden (Southwark, N.) Potts, John S. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Purcell, A. A. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Rees, Sir Beddoe Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Hardie, George D Ritson, J. Windsor, Walter
Harney, E. A. Salter, Dr. Alfred Wright, W.
Harris, Percy A. Scrymgeour, E. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hayday, Arthur Scurr, John
Henderson, Right Hon. A [...]urnley) Sexton, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Warne.
Hirst, G. H. Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Hirst, W (Bradford, South) Shiels, Dr. Drummond

Question put accordingly,"that the word 'twenty-seven' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 244: Noes, 144.

It being after a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.