§ Mr. HARNEY
I beg to move, "That the Clause be postponed."
There cannot be any doubt that this Clause very intimately affects the approved societies. Not only does it alter the whole of the financial structure of the scheme with which they are very closely connected, but it alters the benefits that they will be able to pay. In these circumstances, I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether the approved societies have been consulted before this Bill has been brought forward.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In a very long series of ruling on Motions to postpone Clauses, it has been held that the merits of the Clause may not be referred to. The only argument possible is whether it would be better to take this Clause after others.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I was aware of that fact, and was not intending to go beyond it. The point I am making is this: It is, in my submission, advisable not to take this Clause now. It is obvious that all the Clauses cannot be taken before Easter, and during the Easter holidays the approved societies have their usual annual meeting, and will, therefore, have an opportunity of considering this Clause. In supplementing that view, I was pointing out that it is part of the whole scheme that not only should the approved societies be consulted before any great change is made affecting them, but that the Advisory Committee set up in 1911 should always stand between the approved societies and any Government action. As a matter of fact, I believe in the case of every one of the amending Acts, from 1911 to this date, the approved societies 2076 have had an opportunity of considering any drastic alteration of the scheme such as is here suggested. That the approved societies are very much concerned I think I can show, and I hope I will be in order in reading some of the resolutions that have been put in my hand and which have been passed by the approved societies.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Member is in order so far, but, if he goes into the merits of the resolutions, he will be out of order.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I accept your ruling, but may I point out that a large number of the approved societies are now about to hold their annual meetings; I therefore urge that, until they have had that opportunity of expressing their views upon it, this Clause ought not to be taken. The Bill cannot possibly be completed before Easter, and there is, in my submission, the strongest possible ground for this Clause, which goes to the root of the mischief as the approved societies see it, not being dealt with until they have had that opportunity of considering it.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I am going to appeal to the practical common sense of the Minister in charge of the Bill. He has One great quality—tact. By his tact he has been able to guide Bills comparatively rapidly through Committee, and I am very anxious for his reputation. I do not want him to be delayed needlessly long. I quite appreciate that the Budget is essential, and cannot be carried until this Bill become an Act of Parliament. Therefore, the more controversy and the more discussion there is, the more likely is there to be delay. I think he will be the first to admit that the most controversial Clause is this Clause. We are bound to criticise it word for word and line for line so long as the various friendly societies are not satisfied. I do not know that there are any more public-spirited or patriotic citizens than the members of the various friendly societies. The very fact that they belong to these friendly societies is proof of their goodwill and their enthusiasm in public work. They are all meeting at Easter. Easter is the period when all these societies meet for their annual gatherings. They are meeting with this terrible cloud over them, and they are bringing pressure on Members on all sides of the House to attack this particular Clause.
2077 They are reasonable people, and it is possible we may be able to placate them, The Minister may be able to make some concessions that will ensure the smooth passage of this Clause, but now is the time. If at Easter he goes round to various assemblies and argues with them and meets their objections, we shall be in a much better position to consider the Bill, and probably shall not need to keep him up all night. That is not good for his health or for the health of the Members of the House, and surely it is common sense to take the less controversial Clauses of this Bill, like the registration of electors, which do not rouse very great passions, rather than a Clause of this kind which strikes at the very root of our health system and all our methods of insurance, that disturbs all our friendly societies, and that is likely to rouse great passions. I make this appeal to him with all the more confidence because I remember he gave the Poor Law authorities 12 months' notice. When he had outlined his Bill, he gave the Poor Law authorities 12 months to sit on it. Here he comes aiming a pistol at the heads of the great friendly societies, with whom Parliament is a partner, and with practically 24 hours' notice he tries to rush through a revolutionary scheme. That is not a good way, for a Conservative majority to carry through legislation. That is not the way to strengthen the system of insurance as the foundation of dealing with health. He would be wise, therefore, he would be sagacious, in fact he would be helping his Measure if he postponed this particular Clause to the end. By that means he would have time to consult all the persons concerned and to get the co-operation of the friendly societies instead of their hostility. Let me remind him of the names of these societies—the Foresters, the Hearts of Oak—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think the names of the societies are really relevant to the hon. Gentleman's argument.
§ Mr. HARRIS
I was only going to add ore other—the Oddfellows. I do not want the Minister to be regarded as hostile to the Oddfellows. I think he would be very wise to postpone this Clause, and let us get on with the rest of the Bill. There is no reason why we should not to day make good progress with all these comparatively minor 2078 Clauses. Then, after Easter, refreshed and strengthened by contact with the great friendly societies, we could help him to pass his first Clause.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On a point of Order. Surely it is germane to the discussion of this Clause that Members may give the names of the societies opposed to it, as some indication of the volume of opinion against it?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member had had as much experience of these postponing Motions as I have had, he would know that the limits are very narrow. It is a valid argument to say that it would be well to delay the discussion of this Clause, so that it could be considered by these societies. But to go into the weight of the opinion behind that argument would practically be to go into the merits of the Clause, and I do not think that can be pursued.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Supposing we were discussing someone likely to be hanged, surely it would be in order to mention Smith's name as one who objected to it. The insured persons must be named, because they are provided by the Statute, and they have objected. Surely we must bring out the names, to inform the Committee of the measure of the objection.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I can foresee the result of, this argument—the immense numbers of the respective societies at stake, and their merits, their enthusiasms, their zeal, and so on. We should soon be embarking on the whole merits.
§ Mr. J. JONES
Would it be in Order for those of us who have friendly societies in our constituencies to quote the names of our own constituents who have sent us letters of protest against this particular Clause?
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
I am bound to resist the proposal which has been put before the Committee, and I submit that there has really been no attempt to show any valid reasons why this Clause should be postponed. We are not dealing here with an ordinary Amendment 2079 of the Insurance Act; we are dealing with an Economy Bill. It is well known we cannot fix the date for the opening of the Budget until we have disposed of our business in connection with the Economy Bill. It has been cynically—I will not say cynically, but frankly admitted by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that the sole object of it is to give them time to go into the country and dig out fresh arguments and fresh reasons for opposing every sentence, every line and every word of the Clause. That certainly may strengthen their efforts in endeavouring to delay the passage of this Measure, but I submit that it is not really a valid reason why you should put this Clause behind the other Clauses in the Bill. I quite agree this is an important Clause, and we may have to take some little time to discuss it. Certainly I am prepared to sacrifice my health in endeavouring to meet any new arguments that may be adduced. As for concessions, I have had other Measures pass through this House, and it has been sometimes possible to meet new arguments addressed to me, and to make concessions. I have no reason to suppose that if on this Bill suggestions are put forward which do not affect vital matters, I am not likely to do again what I have done before. I think I can do that as well to-night, or even in the small hours of to-morrow morning, as I could do it after Easter, and, therefore, I beg to ask the Committee to resist this proposal.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am quite sure there is no Member on any side of the Committee who desires to kill the right hon. Gentleman's Measure. It is quite true he has indicated that he is prepared to sacrifice his health, in common with the health of those whom he sacrifices. At the same time, I do take exception when the Minister says that this is not an Insurance Bill, that this is not amending the Insurance Act, but that this is an Economy Bill.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I agree. It is an extraordinary Insurance Bill. That is exactly the ground on which we are opposing it. It is because it is so extraordinary that we say it is not sufficient merely to plead 2080 that this is an Economy Bill. The Clause we are now debating vitally affects 15,000,000 insured persons. We can call it what we like. They, and those responsible, will call it by a very short name, and because of that I ask the House to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Minister said that this is an Economy Bill. He cannot have read Clause 7, which says:This Part of this Act may be cited as the National Health Insurance Act, 1926.I think an additional reason for postponing the Clause is to give the right hon. Gentleman time to read his own Bill. He will find that the Bill is not an Economy Bill, but, according to his own draftsmen, it is to be cited as the "National Health Insurance Act, 1926,"and so it is—a very vital part. I know at this stage I cannot discuss the merits, but undoubtedly it is something more than an Economy Bill. It vitally affects the whole working of the Insurance Act, so much so that even in this particular Clause the Government have not had time to think out all the ramifications and the effects it will have, but are going to leave it to future Regulations.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That, I think, would be a reason for not getting sooner to Clause 7, and the result of carrying this Amendment would be that we should get sooner to Clause 7.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That point may be a good one. At the same time, may I respectfully suggest that I am entirely on the question of time now? I am answering an argument given by the Minister, and if it be in order for a Minister to advance an argument, it must be in order to reply to it. But may I point out this to the Committee and to the Minister? There is no doubt at all that this is a question which the societies ought to have time to consider. That is reasonable in itself. It is affecting 15,000,000 people, and the approved societies, who are devoted entirely to the working out of the law of the land, as my hon. Friends have pointed out, have had no time up to the present to consider it. It is not a question of whether, on merits, you ought to add this to the Bill. It is a question of whether an opportunity ought not to be given to those who are vitally affected, and know more about the matter even than the 2081 Minister himself, because they are devoting the whole of their time to it, whereas he is only occasionally attending to it, because he has so much other work to do—it is a question of whether an opportunity ought not to be given to them not only to consider this proposition, but to consider the implications of the report of the Royal Commission. There is a society called the Hearts of Oak, which has already met and rejected it, but it is the only society which has ha d the opportunity so far. It is a very considerable society numbering 400,000 to 500,000 members. But the largest societies of all are to meet next week. They will be considering this. Is it not fair, before the Minister proceeds with the Bill, to give them an opportunity to consider this, and the House of Commons an opportunity to consider what their opinion is?
This House of Commons is now adjudicating upon a proposition which was never before it at the last Election. It is a new change—a change which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself did not anticipate last year. It is something which came quite suddenly, and surely those who are vitally affected ought to have a full opportunity of discussing it? Why does the Minister persist in proceeding with it, when he knows perfectly well that these Societies are on the point of considering it? There will be next week delegates drawn from 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 insured persons in this country. It will be the one subject for discussion and consideration. I venture to say there will not be a speech delivered there that will not concentrate upon this particular proposition. There will be delegates from every part of the country. They may have valuable suggestions. The Minister says he is perfectly ready to sit into the early hours to-morrow morning. There is no doubt that the strongest argument upon which he is depending is his majority. That is his argument Really, is it fair to the Committee of the House of Commons? They have no time to consult their constituents. There is not a Member of this House who has not got in his constituency thousands and tens of thousands of these poor people whose interests are affected vitally by this provision. Are they not to have any opportunity of communicating?
Communications are beginning to pour in, but none of us have opportunities of 2082 coming into contact with the people who are organising in our constituencies questions of health, and how the people can be kept alive and their families kept in times of illness. Are we not to have an opportunity, above all, of hearing what suggestions they have to make? They may take the view—though, honestly, I do not believe they will—but they might conceivably take the view, "Very well, we are prepared to make some concession to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in these circumstances, but, in our opinion, certain things ought to be done."Who could give us better advice and counsel on that subject than these great organised societies who have devoted to this subject, and this subject alone, every day of their lives, and know exactly what should he done? "No,"the Minister says, "I must get your cash, and I must get it before Easter. I am not going to wait."Why? Because he knows perfecly well next week there will be a chorus of condemnation, and he wants his Bill before Members, not on this side, but on that side, have been told by their constituents that there will be a most strenuous resistance on the part of tens of thousands to the confiscatory proposals of this Bill.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to support the proposal to postpone this Clause, and desire to put one or two reasons why it should be done. I understand that in the Ministry of Health there is what is known as the Consultative Council, and that Council is drawn from approved societies of all kinds. I should like to know whether the Consultative Council, by the very nature of its name, has been consulted? It ought to have been consulted, of course, and I think we ought to know from the Minister before we proceed as to what has transpired in that connection. Then there is a very strong point in favour of postpining this Clause because this Clause stands entirely on its own, and the Bill could become law, and would be workable in fact, without Clause 1 at all. The Minister described this Bill as an Economy Bill. The correct description ought to be that Clause 1 is an Economy Bill, and the other part is an Insurance Bill. We are very much annoyed at the way this Bill is being rushed by the Government. It is unfair to the approved societies, and this Bill, in fact, from the very beginning, 2083 was intended to be rushed. I hope to prove my case. As soon as the Government came into office, in November, 1924, they appointed an Actuarial Committee to inquire into this subject, and there are traces of this Bill all along the line from the day the Government came into office.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The question before the Committee is that Clause 1 be postponed, and not why other Clauses should be postponed.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The question I ask is, have the Consultative Council been consulted? I understand that yesterday all the approved societies' representatives in the country met in London. I am not sure whether they were called together by the Minister, but I think it is fair that we should know from the Minister the attitude of these approved societies towards Clause 1.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I suggest that if the Government had been introducing a Bill which would have the effect of disturbing the Engineering and Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, and that it eras known that the federation was to have a meeting shortly afterwards, the Bill would not be introduced until that employers' organisation had had an opportunity of considering its terms and provisions. The mining situation is a very good parallel. A Bill may have to be introduced to deal with that, but that Bill will not be introduced until employers and workpeople have had the opportunity of discussing the Report of the Commission. For many years I administered the National Health Insurance Act, and I have a good idea as to what the members of the approved societies will feel about this matter, and when it is reported to the representatives of these millions of people that the Government contemplate taking certain action I can well imagine the indignation that will he expressed, and rightly expressed, by the members of those societies, who will say the Government are proceeding before they have had an opportunity of considering the proposals. The Minister has said he may make concessions. I put it to the Committee that the only concessions which will he worth making are those asked for by the approved societies. Some of its here have administered the 2084 Act, and some of us have received benefit under the Act, but the real person to be considered is the member of an approved society, and the Minister cannot make concessions to Members of Parliament which will be anything like as valuable as those which the members of approved societies wish for themselves. Therefore I put it to the Committee that the consideration of Clause 1 ought to be deferred until after the Easter holidays, until after the workpeople and the members of the societies have had an oppotunity of considering, not only the Economy Bill, but the Report of the Royal Commission, and I hope the Minister will give consideration to that point of view. He will make concessions, I think, if he can make concessions which will not lose him any money, but I do urge that the only concessions which will be desirable are those asked for by the representatives of the approved societies after they have carefully deliberated about the matter and asked their spokesmen, in any part of the House, to represent their views.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
Up to the present there really has been no answer to the request that this Clause should be postponed, except the silent threat of the majority behind the Treasury Bench. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) asked the Minister of Health a question, the answer to which may have something to do with it, but he did not reply.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I am going to answer it.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I gather that a. more zealous subordinate may answer it for him. It really is desirable to know to what extent it can be said that the friendly societies, so far as they are represented on the Consultative Committee, have expressed a view on the Clause. I am not asking what their view was, but only asking to what extent it is correct to suggest that the friendly societies have really had their views collected and expressed. It is most material to know that, but that very direct question has not been answered. In the second place, may I point out to such members of the Conservative majority as are present to listen to this argument, and are 2085 not merely coming in to vote, that really the case for postponement here is very much stronger than such cases usually are. It is quite true that people often put down a Motion to postpone a Clause, without having any very good arguments as to why the Clause should be postponed; but in the present instance there are two or three admitted facts which should be presented to the Committee. First of all, it is an admitted fact that we are not going to try to carry all these Clauses before the Easter Adjournment. It is not the case, therefore, that the effect of this proposed postponement will be that other Clauses cannot be taken, or that time will lie wasted as regards the Debates which, sooner or later, must take place on this Clause. We have got to take something before Easter, and we have got to leave something else to be dealt with after Easter and the question is a purely practical one of whether it is not desirable to take something else to-night in place of this Clause.
In the second place, may I point out that, if we are to judge by precedents, the law relating to national health insurance has to a very large extent been framed in consultation with and in the light of the known views of the great friendly societies. I do not say they can dictate to the House of Commons, for in is perfectly correct that we have the Bill in our charge even after we know what they have to say, but it is going contrary to the course which every Government has pursued hitherto in connection with national health insurance to say, "We will legislate first and hear what you have to say afterwards."
I am an old enough Member of this House to remember what a, very, very difficult situation was created when it was mistakenly supposed in 1911 that the National Insurance Bill was going to be brought before Parliament and carried without sufficient consultation with the friendly societies. It produced an amount of misunderstanding and an amount of resistance over a Bill which we have never seen in this generation. In face of those two facts, first, that we can take only a small portion of the whole Committee stage before Easter, and, second, that this particular Clause is just one of those Clauses which have always been the subject of discussion 2086 with friendly societies, it is most foolish to say, "I mean to use my majority "—with the threat that if hon. Members keep up the argument too long, they will lose some of their holidays—"and when I have done I will snap my fingers at the friendly societies."I suggest that we have here a case on its merits for the postponement of the discussion of this particular Clause which has not been met, and which cannot be met, unless, indeed, the Minister responsible can get up and say he has already got the views of these approved societies, and that, consequently, their meeting next week does not affect him at all. For these practical reasons I say to hon. Members on the other side, "It is all very well to use your majority, but really there is a real reason why this should be postponed,"and no answer, as it seems to me, has yet been given to that argument.
§ Mr. MELLER
I have listened very carefully to two of the suggestions from hon. Members opposite in favour of the postponement of this Clause, and am bound to say that I am impressed with them. I am impressed for this reason, that there is abroad amongst the representatives of the insured people an idea that this Bill, certainly as regards the first two Clauses, which affect approved societies and insured people—an idea that there has been sharp practice on the part of the Government. I am going to say at once that I acquit the Minister of any sharp practice in the matter. I believe that his desire is to get on with these two Clauses, because the time will be required after Easter for other things, and it is necessary that the contentious part of the Bill should be got out of the way now if possible; but if the Minister is satisfied that the approved societies, after having had full opportunity to consider the merits and the demerits of the Report of the Royal Commission, and what effect these proposals will have upon the funds and the future of the societies, will come to the conclusion that they will support him, then it seems to me there may be no harm done by adopting the suggestion for the postponement of the Clause until after Easter, and for taking the less contentious parts of the Bill now. Whatever may happen to-day with respect to these two Clauses, whether they be passed or 2087 rejected, it will leave a very unpleasant taste in the mouths of those who are administering approved societies.
Although the Consultative Council have been called together, as far as I know they were only called together after the Bill was in print, and the Royal Commission's Report was not discussed with them except in so far as its provisions were outlined to them and the proposals of the Government with regard to its recommendations were set before them; but the whale thing came as a bolt from the clouds, and they had not had the opportunity then, and have had very little opportunity since, of discussing the Report of the Royal Commission. In the short time available, no one has had time to consider the Report, to study it, to read between the lines and understand it, and to come to proper conclusions on its recommendations. Therefore, I would ask the Minister whether he cannot see his way either to give us some indication as to the line he proposes to take upon the Amendments to Clauses 1 and 2, or to accept what I believe is a very reasonable suggestion from the other side, not put forward altogether, I think, by some hon. Members opposite, with the idea of destroying the proposal. I do believe that if the Minister is prepared to argue with the societies and to give them full time for consideration they will, as on all previous occasions, come down on the side of reasonable and sane action.
§ Mr. SEXTON
In pleading with the Minister to accept this proposal for postponement, I would like to put my own case before him. My own men, numbering 400,000, have asked me to meet them during Easter, to consult with them as to how these proposals will affect them. How can I say or do anything if these Clauses are passed to-night? There is a vital issue at stake. They regard this Bill as a breach of faith, and they honestly think they are being deprived of something which they were led to believe would exist for all time.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is a discussion on the merits of the Bill, and the Minister would not be in order in replying to it.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I am not concerned with the merits of the Bill—if it has any—or its demerits, but I say the action of the Government in suddenly plunging upon this course without any explanation, and with little opportunity for discussing the effects of their proposals, is—well, I do not like to say it, but it savours to me of a piece of atrocious political hooliganism.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Obviously the hon. Member is now considering either the merits or the demerits of the Bill, but what we are discussing is the question of the postponement of this Clause.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I have endeavoured to obey your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but it is very difficult to sit quietly and to keep coal under the circumstances, when we know that we are to be suddenly bludgeoned and garrotted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shanghaied !"] "Shanghaied"is a fool to it. I know something about being Shanghaied. I have been Shanghaied myself. It is not oily hooliganism; it is something much worse. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends persist in this kind of thing, they will ultimately arrive at their political Tyburn.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I desire to protest against the statement of the Minister of Health when he said that we on this side merely wished to postpone this Clause, in order that we might go to our constituencies and do propaganda upon it. I think that was his remark; that certainly was the implication I received. I am perfectly certain that there is no need for any propaganda by us in this matter. As a matter of fact, there is no need for it, because everyone is coming to see us and doing propaganda work upon us. I think in the course of the next few days I am meeting, I think, no less than eight approved societies in my constituency to receive from them their protest and their indignation. I could give the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Gentlemen opposite the names of the representatives of these societies if they wish—
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
Then I will be able to give them later. I do, however, wish strongly to protest against, as it seems to me, the imputations made where not in 2089 accordance with the fact. There is at least one Member on the Government Benches who has had the courage to state his conviction, namely, that there is going to be a grave injustice done to at least 15.000,000 insured people—
§ Mr. MELLER
I do not know that I put it like that. I would leave an observation like that for a later occasion, if necessary.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
I am sorry if I have somewhat misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. I am not quite used to the acoustics of this place, and perhaps did not quite hear what the hon. Gentleman said. I do hope, however, that everyone here will fully realise exactly what we are doing in this matter. This is of tremendous import to 15,000,000 insured people. These are looking upon this matter to a certain degree with desperation, because they see all sorts of things which they have been hoping for which are about to slip from their grasp—
§ Mr. BRIANT
Before we vote, I should like an answer from the right hon. Gentleman or from the Parliamentary Secretary very definitely as to whether they considered the approved societies need not be consulted, or whether the approved societies should express their opinion up an the Bill? If the first was the line taken by the Government, they are responsible for it; if, on the other hand, they believe that 15,000,000 persons, through their representatives, should be allowed to express their opinion, they can only support the Amendment proposed by my hon. and learned Friend. The House has sometimes to deal with certain interests which are going to be created. The House, quite rightly in these cases, at all events sometimes, say, "We cannot consult the interests concerned, because we have to make a decision ourselves on the point."But that is not the case here. What we are now formulating is a proposal to take away what has already been given. This is an entirely new principle. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary sat with me for years on an insurance committee and will appreciate the point I am putting forward. Here is a question affecting many millions of people. Are the Government going to rush this 2090 through? Are they going to give no opportunities to the approved societies to say anything in the matter? If the Government do not at the outset handle this matter rightly, the longer it goes on, and the longer the approved societies have the matter before them, the more trouble there will be for the Government in the future. On the ground of public interest is it wise to upset the approved societies which have got to work the Act; to do this thing suddenly, to rush it through without giving them any opportunity to discuss the details? I do not know exactly what their view of such action will be, though I think I can guess it. It is in the interest of the smooth working of the Act that I should suggest we should postpone this Clause, and not rush it through, as the Government seem inclined to do relying upon their supporters to give them the requisite majority.
§ Sir K. WOOD
In the first place, may I say that I certainly remember sitting with the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) on the Insurance Committee to which he refers, and joining with him in endeavouring to prevent the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) from attempting to raid the sinking fund. I do not—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know that I can allow that to pass, otherwise the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will be entitled to reply.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
On a. point of Order. The statement having been made and repeated, would I be in order in saying that there is not a word of truth in the statement made by my hon. Friend?
§ Sir K. WOOD
May I in the first place say that this proposal has been before the approved societies for three weeks. Secondly, they were given as much information as has been given in connection with any proposal that has been before this House for some time. There was an actuarial report, and there was an exposition of the Clauses in the Bill. 2091 So far as explanations were concerned they were fully given. It has been put forward this afternoon in Committee that no consultations have taken place with the approved societies, that no conversations have taken place. That is quite untrue. When in 1911 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs brought in his Bill he had to consult the various societies up and down the country. Under the Act of 1911 he adopted a, method by which the Minister of Health could from time to time consult with and have the benefit of the advice of the societies up and down the country. To this end he formed a Consultative Council.
Immediately the present Bill was introduced my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health called together the Consultative Council representing all the approved societies in the country. That meeting was held, I believe, on the very day when the text of the Bill was available to Members of this House. My right hon. Friend made a statement to that gathering and explained at considerable length the provisions of the Bill. The members of the Consultative Council came to certain conclusions about the proposals. Having considered them at length, carefully and seriously, they were willing and able to come to the conclusion, on that day, as to what they considered the merits of the Bill. [An HON. MEMBERS: "What were the conclusions?"] I am going to say. There are two important proposals in the Measure contained in the first and second Clauses. So far as the second Clause is concerned, the Consultative Council saw no objection to it. So far as the proposals contained in Clause 1 are concerned, by a majority of 28 to six they declared they were not prepared to accept it. No one can this afternoon say that there has been no consultation. There has been the fullest consultation. There has been the consultation much on the lines as laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs himself.
§ Sir K. WOOD
The committee is one which consists of the representatives of all types of societies up and down the 2092 country. If I were to mention their names I think, at any rate, there would be no question about it being a committee—
§ Mr. MACKINDER
What about the approved member, who matters more than anybody else? He has not had an opportunity of getting to know what are the provisions.
§ Sir K. WOOD
With great respect that is not so. This matter was fully debated in the House in 1911, and it was decided that the most convenient method of reaching the 15,000,000 was to have this Advisory Council, and from time to time to consult it. They have been consulted.
§ Sir K. WOOD
It is no good the hon. Member saying "three weeks,"because the Consultative Council considered themselves sufficiently conversant with the matter to deal with it on the day to which I have referred. It is no answer to ask: "What about the three weeks?"By a majority of 28 to 6, they decided that they could not agree with the proposal. Therefore it is no justification for anyone to say this afternoon that a proper competent authority has not been consulted so far as this Bill is concerned. That is the point that I have to make so far as the postponement of this Clause is concerned. Secondly, I would remind the House that the Bill is now just in its Committee stage, and between now and the Report stage any proposals or any suggestions from any of the annual conferences will receive full consideration by my right hon. Friend—that is proposals that are not intended to destroy the vital principle of the alterations suggested. Anything, I say, that is put forward by the societies will receive full consideration. Obviously that is the right step to take. It can be done. It will be done. There is, therefore, no possible grounds for saying that any—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Before the Parliamentary Secretary leaves the question of the Consultative Council, is it not the fact that members of the Consultative Council were opposed to this Bill, and asked the Minister for time to consult the approved societies? Did they not press him not to introduce the Bill imme- 2093 diately but to give them time to consult the approved societies before anything was done?
§ Sir K. WOOD
No, Sir; we had no such request. So far as my right hon. Friend and myself are concerned, the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is not correct. What happened is as I have detailed it. My right hon. Friend and myself retired from the meeting of the Consultative Council to which I have referred, and the council said they would consider the matter. My right hon. Friend asked if it would be necessary to see himself or myself again, and the members of the Consultative Council said it would not be necessary.
§ 5.0. P.M.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Was it not proved that the only body who had an opportunity of representing the whole of the approved societies waited upon the Minister of Health, and made the request as embodied in the proposal? You did not meet the deputation yesterday?
§ Sir K. WOOD
Where the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen get these facts from, I do not know. My right hon. Friend met no such body yesterday, nor at any other time. These suspicious Gentlemen opposite will perhaps allow me to explain. The Consultative Council felt quite competent to deal with proposals that we made at the first meeting; they occupied a day in considering them, and they gave their decision as I have indicated. We have had no meeting since, and my right hon. Friend has not received any deputation since from the approved societies.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Is it not a fact that the Consultative Council was only approached on the day that the Economy Bill was introduced? Is it not also a fact that they were told that that was a confidential meeting, that they said they wanted an opportunity to put the matter before the approved societies, and that they were told the thing should be done confidentially that day?
§ Sir K. WOOD
No, the hon. and learned Member is quite incorrect in all those suggestions. What my right hon. Friend did say was, "I am taking the very first opportunity I can to consult with you this day. I could not call you before, because the Bill would not be available to Members of the House of Commons."He took the view that it would not be proper as Minister to reveal to them proposals which had not yet been laid before the House of Commons. I was present, and I know exactly what took place.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I understand the function of the Consultative Council is that there should be a body who should be given the opportunity of laying suggestions and new proposals before the approved societies. Is it a fact that this was brought before the Consultative Council at a time and in circumstances that precluded them from carrying out their functions and laying them before the approved societies?
§ Sir K. WOOD
No. That suggestion is perfectly untrue. The functions of the Consultative Council are not to take proposals from the Minister to the approved societies and to consult them and come back to the Minister, but to receive suggestions from the Minister or make suggestions themselves in their capacity as representatives of the insured persons of the country. That is the statutory duty as laid down by the Act of 1911. All that was said to them was that as we were meeting that morning and Members of the House of Commons might not receive the draft of the Bill until 11 or 12 o'clock, we desired until the Bill was public property—[HON. MEMBERS: "oh, oh!"]—But there is not the slightest vestige of ground for saying that this was a confidential meeting and that they were not in a position to consider the proposals made to them. The first proposals were accepted, and with regard to the second proposals, by a majority, they intimated that they were not prepared to accept them. There is not, therefore, the slightest ground for saying that this Clause ought to be postponed on the ground that the appropriate body has not been consulted. They have been consulted, and they considered it and they have given their decision. All we 2095 have to deal with this afternoon is the charge—made very recklessly—that no consultation has taken place. It is perfectly untrue. They have been consulted and they have given their decision. Therefore, there is no proper reason why this Clause should be postponed. If in the conferences up and down the country that will shortly take place any practical suggestions are put before my right hon. Friend, we shall he glad to consider them and can deal with them at other stages of the Bill.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I must confess I have never heard a Minister so twist the facts. I am going to speak quite as plainly, because I know just as much about what took place as he does. First, he says the appropriate, body, namely, the Consultative Council, were consulted, and they were the only body that ought to have been consulted. Let us see what took place. On the morning that the Bill was to be introduced into this House the Minister called them together, and submitted the proposals for the first time. They are the representatives of 15,000,000 insured persons. Their title is the Consultative Committee to the Minister of Health. Does the Minister deny that the primary function of this body, not only since his term of office, but in the term of every previous Minister, has been that on insurance matters they have not only been consulted before this House was consulted, but they have been asked to give assistance before the House knew anything about it? When we took office we were faced immediately with a crisis with the doctors. We found ourselves landed with a 3s. charge on the Treasury. My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) suggested to the Minister of Health (Mr. Wheatley) that he himself should consult those responsible — the Consultative Council—and ask them whether they would relieve the Treasury of the obligation. We explained the Government's difficulty, and they promptly took over the liability. But they were consulted. We did not go to them and say, "This is a Bill; you can take it, or leave it."We did not go to them and say, "We have an absolute majority, no matter what you do, but for courtesy we are consulting you."We said, "You are the consultative body and the people who 2096 know this job; can you help us? "And they did help us.
Compare that with what you have just heard from the Minister. How diplomatically he climbs over their decisions. He himself says they are the most representative body. He himself says they are the people who speak with authority. He has told you they know all about it and that they decided to agree to one Resolution and on the other, well, by 28 to six they were not quite so definite. That is the way he puts it. Now I will put to him what happened. The second Resolution, he knows perfectly well, has nothing to do with this Debate. No. 2 Resolution has nothing to do with the Amendment. You know it and there was no need to introduce it. It was the medical benefits alone, and he knows it. Therefore, the Resolution that they passed on the Clause that we are now discussing was a wholesale condemnation of these proposals. Then he says, "by a majority."Very well; the majority, taking his figures, is 28 to six. If they are the most representative body, according to his own phrase, and the people who know and, as he says, who are entrusted with responsibility, what right have you to come down this afternoon and place before the House of Commons a Bill which these people say is bad? This Bill goes much beyond that. Fifteen million people—and it is estimated that at least 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 will be meeting in the Easter conferences in the next few days ! When we trade union leaders do something, and it does not always met with approbation, the first thing you hurl at us is, "Why don't you consult your people?"We hear frequently the phrase, "What about the rank and file?"Now we are pleading for the rank and file. Sometimes you want a ballot. Will you take one on this?
Let us come to the other practical side of it. After all, the trade unions, the friendly societies and I he approved societies can only spend money from their administration funds. The hon. Gentleman has been on deputations with me to plead that it was not quite enough. They can only spend this money. Very well, that being so, surely the conference could not be called in a day. Three weeks, he says, this has been before the country. The railway men affected reside in Scotland, England and Wales. The delegates they have to elect have to be elected or 2097 they will not be representative. With all this knowledge of geography, the hon. Gentleman says three weeks was enough for them to be consulted. I put it quite definitely that it is not only not fair, that it is not only not giving a chance, but that he himself perfectly well knows that the explanation or excuse he gave that it is only one stage of the Bill will not hold water. If he believes that after an opportunity has been given to consult these societies, and the Government are prepared to take their view, what is the difficulty about delaying the matter? The Prime Minister has announced to-day that when this House re-assembles we are going straight back into Committee on this Bill. If at that time the societies have come to a decision, then the Parliamentary Secretary will say, "Yes, but we have passed that stage of the Bill."When the Report stage is reached and we move an Amendment we shall be told, "This will seriously interfere with the Budget proposals,"and so the Government will go on, not relying upon the arguments of the case, but upon the number of hon. Members who will probably walk into the Lobby on that occasion. I would like to say that when they consult their constituencies on this question they will get quite another view placed before them.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
We have just been told that if in conference the approved societies make any recommendations, they can be dealt with on the further stages of the Bill. I want to ask you, Mr. Chairman, if a decision is arrived at on the Committee stage of this Bill, and further recommendations are brought in afterwards which increase the charge imposed by this Bill, would they be in order on the Report stage?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I think if any further arguments were needed in favour of postponing this Clause, they have been supplied by the explanation given by the Minister himself. Approved societies do not usually do their business in the way indicated by the Parliamentary Secretary because they must have some consultation with their members, and I cannot believe that any committee formed to confer with the Government in regard 2098 to this scheme would ever think of committing the members of these societies to so drastic a step as that which is contemplated by this Bill. The Government have absolutely no mandate for the introduction of a Measure such as this which has never been placed before the country. The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that this proposal has been before the members of the approved societies for three weeks, but you could not hatch a clutch of eggs in three weeks and yet the Government produce a Bill like this. The idea that this matter can be adequately discussed in the three weeks in which the Bill has been before the country has no reality in fact whatever. The mandate of the country does not extend to economy in this direction. The supporters of the Government may claim that they have a mandate to introduce measures of economy and on that we are all agreed. They may have a mandate to put into operation certain proposals for economy in public expenditure, but there is no economy in this proposal. The economy suggested by the Government is of the meanest and most despicable kind.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was saying that as an additional argument why we should have more time for discussion. It seems to me that from every point of view mere justice demands that there should be a postponement of Clause 1 of this Bill. Added weight has been given to this contention by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who has completely demolished the case for the Bill put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. Unless the case made out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is answered, I cannot believe that any hon. Member on the other side dare go back to his constituents and meet the members of the approved societies and defend the passage of this Bill. For these reasons I support the postponement of the discussion of this Clause, and I hope the House will carry this Amendment.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I cannot believe that the account given by the Parliamentary Secretary of the position of this matter is entirely accurate, and I know it is 2099 inaccurate in one particular in which I am in a position to check his statement. The hon. Member explained that he had consulted this body which he spoke of as being created under the Act of 1911. I do not think the Act of 1911 contained any such Clause as the one which he says set up this Committee. The Act of 1911 contains no Clause giving power to set up such a committee, and when the Parliamentary Secretary was referring to this committee he was quite wrong in saying it was set up under the Act of 1911.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I remember the occasion perfectly well, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) set up the first committee.
§ Sir J. SIMON
There is no Section of the Act referred to which gave power to set up this committee at all. A purely advisory committee was constituted, but it is inaccurate to say that it was created by a Section of the Act of 1911, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs took very good care to have effective consultation with the approved societies, although it was not done by a statutory enactment.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am advised that Section 58 of the Act of 1911 gives power for a consultative council to be set up.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Then I am wrong. What is quite certain is that the Consultative Council in fact is created under the Act of 1919, and an Order in Council was made under it. There is presumably an Order in Council made for this particular purpose. I want to know, if there is an Order in Council passed to create this consultative council, does it not make provision as to what it is that is really to be put before that body? Is it the case that the Order is being properly carried out if you present to that body a scheme of legislation which you are going to introduce, and ask them to express their view upon it I cannot believe that that was the intention or spirit of the Order in Council. Probably the Parliamentary Secretary has heard of the well-known French story of the lady who went into her farmyard, and told her fowls that she wished to consult them as to whether they would like to be roasted or boiled, when the leading fowl replied that he and his friends did not want either. The lady 2100 retorted, "My dear fowl, you are wandering from the point."When the Government used this Consultative Council, is it the case that they never put before it proposals which the Government had decided upon without getting any previous information, and without making themselves acquainted with the views of the friendly societies?
§ Mr. LAWSON
I was very much interested in the case put by the Parliamentary Secretary with the account he gave of his dealings with the Consultative Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) completely demolished that case. There is one thing, however, which the hon. Gentleman did not say, and it is that the-Committee were so dissatisfied that they held further discussions, and last night the Minister received a telegram from a joint body representing practically 14,000,000 people who come under the Insurance Act. I ask the Minister of Health if he received a telegram last night from a joint committee representing something like 14,000,000 people who come under the Insurance Act, asking that he should postpone the discussion of this Bill until they had had an opportunity of discussing the matter with the members of their societies during the week-end? I also want to know, if the right hon. Gentleman received that telegram, what was his answer to it. I understood the Parliamentary Secretary's case was that the Government had discussed these matters with the committee representing the contributors and they could not get any further. On this point I think we are entitled to a straight answer. Did the right hon. Gentleman receive such a telegram, and if so what was his answer to it? The telegram definitely asked that the Government should postpone the discussion of this Clause until the members of the approved societies had had an opportunity of discussing it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is sometimes in my power to make hon. Members sit down, but it is not in my power to make them rise.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
2101 We have reached a stage at which we should move to report Progress. After all, we are discussing a very simple and straightforward Amendment. Grounds have been put forward, and we have heard from the Minister that the reason why this Amendment is resisted is because every opportunity has already been given. A plain, specific question has now been put by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), to this effect: Is it true that the Minister himself received a definite, telegram to the effect indicated, and what was the answer? Surely, that is a simple, straightforward question, and one that ought to be answered. If my right hon. Friend feels that he ought not to answer, or if he does not intend to answer, I feel that there is no other alternative than to move to report Progress.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I have no objection at all to answering the question, but I thought, as I saw that a number of hon. Members opposite were desirous of putting some further considerations, I might postpone my answer. Since the right hon. Gentleman feels
§ that an answer is necessary now. I will give it. I did not receive any such telegram last night. I did receive a telegram this morning. A telegram, which came while I was in attendance at the Cabinet, was opened by my private Secretary, but there was nothing in the telegram to show that it came from anyone who represented 14,000,000 people. The effect of the telegram was to ask that I should receive a deputation; but, unfortunately, owing to the fact that I was engaged at the Cabinet until a late hour, by the time I got the telegram it was no longer possible for me to receive a deputation. That is my answer to the hon. Member's question.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That being so, I think it is the strongest possible ground for this Motion. The issue is now boiled down to much narrower limits. I do not blame my right hon. Friend now; he was too busy; he was engaged in other matters—
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 124; Noes, 227.2105
|Division No. 107.]||AYES.||[5.50 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Groves, T.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro)||Grundy, T. W.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Ammon, Charles George||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Palln, John Henry|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Paling, W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hardle, George D.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Barnes, A.||Harney, E. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Barr, J.||Harris, Percy A.||Potts, John S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hayday, Arthur||Riley, Ben|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Briant, Frank||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hore-Balisha, Leslie||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Clowes, S.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Campton, Joseph||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snell, Harry|
|Cove, W. G.||Kelly, W. T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, D.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Dennison, R.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby).|
|Duncan, C.||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dunnico, H.||Livingstone, A. M.||Thurtle, E.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gibbins, Joseph||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Mackinder, W.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Maxton, James||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morris, R. H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Westwood, J.||Williams, T. (York, Don valley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Whiteley, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Warne.|
|Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Wright, W.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Albery, Irving James||Gadle, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.Derby)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Moore Sir Newton J.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gee, Captain R.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Colonel J.C. T.|
|Atkinson, C.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Balniel, Lord||Goff, Sir Park||Murchison, C. K.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Grace, John||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Barnett, Major Sir R.||Grant, J. A.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G. (Ptrat'ld.)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Bennett, A. J.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Berry, Sir George||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Birchail, Major J. Dearman||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Pilcher, G.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pilditch, sir Philip|
|Blundell, F. N.||Harney, E. A.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Haslam, Henry C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hawke, John Anthony||Raine, W.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Ramsden, E.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Brass, Captain W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hannessy, Major J. R. G.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hills, Major John Waller||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St.Marylebone)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hohier, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Holt, Capt. H. P.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Burman, J. B.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sandon, Lord|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Huntingfield, Lord||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Jacob, A. E.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Kidd, J. (Linilthgow)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Couper, J. B.||Lamb, J. Q.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lister Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Loder, J. de V.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Looker, Herbert William||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Lord, Walter Greaves.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Lougher, L.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Macintyre, Ian||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||McLean, Major A.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Macmillan, Captain H.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Wells, S. R.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Macquisten, F. A.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D, Steel||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.- M.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Malone, Major P. B.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fermoy, Lord||Meller, R. J.||Womersley, W. J,|
|Fielden, E. B.||Merriman, F. B.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgewater)|
|Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.||Major Cope and Captain Margeason.|
|Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
§ Question again proposed, "That the Clause be postponed."
§ Mr. THURTLE
It is quite clear, from what the Parliamentary Secretary said, that there has been no consultation in any real sense of the ward with the interests concerned. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman understands by consultation, but we on this side of the Committee, who have some conception of democracy, understand, in a case of this sort, that consultation means consultation with the members themselves who are affected. We do not regard an eleventh-hour secret conclave with this Consultative Council as being anything in the nature of real consultation. I am astonished at the attitude of the Government in regard to this matter, because it is contrary to their general attitude in regard to legislation. I believe the basis upon which the Government seek to frame all their legislation is that of "Peace in our time."That doctrine presupposes legislation by agreement so far as is possible, and legislation by agreement inevitably involves consultation. It is upon the basis of consulting the interests affected that the Government are framing, very largely, their legislative programme.
If I may give an illustration of that, I would take the question of the coal problem. There it is quite clear that the Government contemplate, in the near future, legislation of some sort or another, but it is equally clear that they are not going to bring that legislation into the House until they have had the fullest and most complete consultation with the various interests affected. The hon. Gentleman would not dare to suggest to the House that the coal-miners were adequately consulted about their problem if, at the eleventh hour, when the Bill was already in print, their Executive Committee were consulted on that matter. He would recognise that the members of the organisation concerned have every right to be consulted on the broad principles of proposals, if there is going to be consultation in any real sense of the word. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is himself contemplating introducing legislation 2106 dealing with the local government of London. That is a matter which affects the particular interests of the various boroughs in London, and he is consulting those interests. He is not, however, consulting them at the eleventh hour, when the Bill is already in draft. He understands, by consultation, consulting them many months in advance, going over the various problems which concerns them, and then drafting the proposed legislation in accordance with the views expressed during those consultations. We contend that the same course should have been adopted in this case. The right hon. Gentleman says he never received the telegram referred to by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) last night, but he received it this morning. I wonder, however, if he has received, as most Members on this side have received, letters of protest from the members of the various approved societies affected. I have one in my hand now, dated 27th March. I do not know that I ought to trouble the Committee [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it.!"]:At an emergency meeting of the Committee of Management of the National Amalgamated Approved Society held on 24th March, 1926, for the purpose of considering the Government's Economy Bill, it was unanimously resolved "—This is not the voice of a consultative council or an unrepresentative body like that, but the authentic voice of the rank and file. That is the voice that ought to be listened to:(1) That the Committee of Management of the National Amalgamated Approved Society, representing 2,300,000 insured persons, having had laid before it the consequences of the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill on the finances of the society, hereby records its deep concern at the proposal of the Government to withdraw a substantial portion of the State grant to National Health Insurance.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I was merely seeking to point out that if this matter really were referred to the rank and file, and a consultation in the real sense were to take place, it would become apparent even to the right hon. Gentleman himself that there was intense indignation 2107 amongst these 15,000,000 insured persons at the way they have been treated by the Government by having this piece of legislation hurried forward in the most unjustifiable manner, and therefore I support the protests that have been made from this side of the Committee, and also from the other side by someone who speaks with great authority in regard to insured persons, and by many hon. Members below the Gangway, against the way this legislation is being hurried through. I ask the Minister even at this late hour, in the interests of fair play, to defer consideration of this vital Clause and allow the mass of the people concerned to he properly consulted.
§ Mr. BROAD
I should like to add my voice to those who are asking to postpone consideration of the matter till after Easter Recess. None of us can say honestly and sincerely that three weeks from the first suggestion of these provisions is an adequate time to give to the country so that they may apprehend what is proposed to be done with their societies and their funds. There has been no suggestion in advance of that time, no general indication of what we might expect, nothing to lead anyone to suppose the Government had such a Measure in contemplation. The Under-Secretary has told us that the Minister has consulted the proper body to represent the approved Members on this matter and lie said that body was appointed under Clause 58 of the Act of 1911. Anyone reading that Clause must agree that that Advisory Committee was not in contemplation, nor has it as its function to represent the members of the society as to the policy the Government should pursue. This is the Clause:The insurance Commissioners shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, appoint an Advisory Committee for the purpose of giving the Insurance Commissioners advice and assistance in Connection with the making and altering of Regulations under this part of this Act, consisting of representatives of associations of employers and approved societies and of duly qualified medical practitioners who have personal experience of general practice and of such other persons as the Commissioners may appoint, of whom two at least shall be women.For the purpose of making regulations dealing with the application of that Act, the gentlemen and the two ladies whom 2108 the Ministry have selected may be perfectly qualified to advise the Minister in a consultative capacity, but I think no one can contend that such a Committee is a consultative Committee to represent the interests of the approved members. If that is the only pretext of the consultation with the approved members or their representatives that the Minister has made, it is a mere subterfuge and a pretext to call that consulting the interests of the societies. If the Under-Secretary relies on such advice as this to pretend that consultation has taken place it shows indeed how weak is the Minister's case, and what an attempt this is to rush this through to catch people surprised and unready so that it may be an accomplished fact before the approved members realise what is being done with their interests. I hope the Committee, in common fairness and decency and honesty, will see that a proper opportunity is given to approved societies up and down the country to call the delegates together—they are the only people who can speak for the approved societies to express their opinion. If we get that opportunity, every Member on that side will realise, from the pressure of feeling he will get on the matter, that in his own interests and in the interests of the seat he holds, he will be very careful to use his influence with the Minister to see that this Clause is cut out of the Bill.
On a point of Order. I wish to ask your guidance, Sir. Throughout this Bill we are continually referred to other Acts dealing with National Health Insurance. I and others on this side have been to the Vote Office and all round the place to try to get these Acts. We learn that we cannot. We are quite unable to follow closely the Clauses without them. It is possible for anyone to mislead us as to their contents. Is it within your power to order these Acts to be supplied at the Vote Office?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No, I think not, but I might point out that there are numerous copies of the Statute in the Library.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I feel, after the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary, that I cannot allow the Debate to conclude without saying one 2109 or two words, because a pledge I gave at the time of the Act of 1911 is involved. He said that in 1911, on behalf of the Government of the day, I gave a pledge that an advisory committee should be set up representative of the approved societies, and that before any steps seriously affecting the approved societies were taken by any Government that advisory committee should be consulted. It is admitted that up to the present every Government has faithfully adhered to that pledge—not merely the Government of which I was a member but all the predecessors of the present Government.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) gave a very striking instance of what happened in the ease of the Government of which he was a Member. May I point out what are the implications of the statement he has made. He said, "Our method of consulting the approved societies was to go to that body set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. There was a statutory body for the purpose."What does he call an honest consultation? The very morning of the day the Bill was introduced—I am very glad we have had this Debate to drag it out—after it had been drafted, after it had passed the Cabinet—the Bill is really in the hands of the printer. It is brought; in that afternoon. They met in the morning and discussed, and I understand they gave their opinion in the afternoon, which means that practically after the Bill has been introduced they had what is called a consultation. The words used are "giving them advice and assistance."They were called together to insult them. The right hon. Gentleman thinks it a very amusing thing to call people together for help and advice when you had already made up your mind as to the course you are to take and had actually taken it. Was the Cabinet not entitled to that help and advice? There are many of us who have long experience of Cabinets—some of us a great many years and some a few years—but there is no man who has been a member of a Cabinet who does not know that before any Bill is introduced the Cabinet has an opportunity of examining it, and if it has an opportunity of examining it it ought to have all the facts. Surely it was a most relevant fact for the Cabinet to know that the whole of the Approved Societies 2110 were opposed to the Bill being introduced. That fact was withheld by the right hon. Gentleman from his own colleagues before the Bill is ever sanctioned to be brought into the House of Commons.
May I say another word as to the way it has been done? There was the Second Reading of the Bill. Was the fact revealed to the House of Commons by the Minister that the only method of consulting the approved societies had been by the Statutory Committee which had been set up, and that having consulted them they had by 28 to 6 turned it down? Why was that fact withheld from the House of Commons? Those were relevant facts because you are dealing with a business that is run by a society with 15,000,000 of members. I forget for the moment whether the Advisory Committee was nominated by the Minister or elected.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Then there is a certain representative value in that. That makes it all the more important that they should have been consulted. Here is a body, nominated by groups representing the approved societies, and their help and advice is asked. For what purpose? For the purpose, presumably, of advising the Government as to what action they should take in a matter that vitally affects their interests. I am not going into the merits of that, but I am bound to describe what it is in two sentences. I shall not transgress. I am too old a Parliamentarian to do that. Here is something that affects the whole scheme of the 1911 Act, which means the gradual development and increase of benefits. Here is something that shatters it. "The societies were consulted,"says the right hon. Gentleman. "I consulted them that very morning, when I had decided what I had to do. The Government consulted them, through me, but I never told the Government what they said. The Government never knew."I asked the right hon. Gentleman, Did he, after the Advisory Committee had turned down the scheme, go to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and say, "I am sorry. The people who are affected have practically unanimously turned down the scheme "? Not at all ! The Bill was already introduced before we 2111 ever knew. It is not fair to the House of Commons to have withheld that fact. It is not fair to the Government of the day to have withheld that fact. If every Minister treats advisory committees in that way, it is a perfect farce and a sham.
I desire to enter my protest against the manner in which the Government are bringing forward this Bill, and the unseemly and hurried way in which they are pressing it before the approved societies have been consulted. The Committee which the Government have consulted is not responsible for the work which this Bill seeks to do. It is there in a different capacity. There are other associations much nearer to the approved society members. Was the Association of Approved Societies consulted before the Government took this step? If the Minister says "Yes,"then I tell him that all these approved societies are up against his proposal. They believe it to be wrong, and they say that the harm that will be done will be incalculable. Some of us move among the approved society members daily when we are at
§ home, and we find them protesting in as loud a voice as they can against this Bill. They complain that the Government is proposing to take away their benefits, without consultation. I urge the Government for their own sake and for the sake of these 15,000,000 people to hold their hands and to give time for the Bill to be considered by the rank and file of the approved society members. Let the Government act on the decision of the approved societies rather than on the decision which they have arrived at themselves. There cannot have been the consultation which is necessary for a great Measure like this. If the miners' leaders acted in the way that the Government have clone, they would not be in office 10 minutes; they would be kicked out. I urge the Government to let the people affected have a say in the matter.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN rose 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, 232; Noes, 127.2115
|Division No. 108.]||AYES.||[6.6 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Albery, Irving James||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Frimantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Gadle, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Chapman, Sir S.||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Atkinson, C.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gee, Captain R.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Clarry, Reginald George||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Balniel, Lord||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cope, Major William||Grace, John|
|Beilairs, Commander Canyon W.||Couper, J. S.||Grant, J. A.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Berry, Sir George||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hanke, John Anthony|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Henderson, Capt. R R.(Oxf'd,Henley)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur p.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.Newh'y)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & WhbY)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St.Niarylebone)|
|Burman, J. B.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Fermoy, Lord||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fielden, E. B.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. K.|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Murchison, C. K.||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Jacob, A. E||Nelson, Sir Frank||Templeton, W. P.|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, south)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Nuttall, Ellis||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Pilcher, G.||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Locer, J. de V.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Locker, Herbert William||Radford, E. A.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Lord, Walter Greaves-||Raine, W.||Wells, S. R.|
|Lougher, L.||Ramsden, E.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Remnant, Sir James||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Maclntyre, Ian||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|McLean, Major A.||Salmon, Major I.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Womersley, W. J.|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sandon, Lord||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Shepperson, E. W.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Skelton, A. N.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hun. Sir L.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine.C.)|
|Meller, R. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Merriman, F. B.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Major Hennessy and Captain|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Viscount Curzon.|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Grundy, T. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.|
|Attlee Clement Richard||Hardle, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Harney, E. A.||Riley, Ben|
|Barnes, A.||Harris, Percy A||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W. R., Elland)|
|Barn, J.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Rose, Frank H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hayes, John Henry||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Briant, Frank||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Bromley, J.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Robert|
|Buchanan, G.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snell, Harry|
|Clowes, S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Comoton, Joseph||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Connolly, M.||Kirkwood, D.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cove, W. G,||Lansbury, George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lawson, John James||Thome, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lee, F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Livingstone, A. M.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Trevetyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Day Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dennison, R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||March, S.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morris, R. H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhonddn)|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold||Westwood, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Whiteley, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Groves, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)||Wright, W.||Mr. Warne and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Clause he postponed."2116
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 229.2117
|Division No. 109.]||AYES.||[6.12 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Sexton, James|
|Alexander. A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardie, George D.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Harney, E, A.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Harris, Percy A.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barnes, A.||Hayday, Arthur||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Barr, J.||Hayes, John Henry||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A, (Burnley)||Smillie, Robert|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow;||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Snell, Harry|
|Bromfield, William||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromley, J||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Taylor, R A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kennedy, T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Clowes, S.||Kirkwood, D||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, George||Treveiyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawson, John James||Varley, Frank B.|
|Connolly, M.||Lee, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lowth, T.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lunn, William||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Warne, G. H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Mackinder, W.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Morris. R. H||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dennison, R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottonham, N.)||Westwood, J.|
|Duncan, C.||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, W.|
|Dunnlco, H.||Oliver, George Harold||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Edward, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)||Palin, John Henry||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Parkinson. John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, C. H (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gosling, Harry||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Remnant, Sir James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Robinson,W. C. (Yorks.W. R., Elland)||Sir Godfrey Collins and Sir Robert Hutchison.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Briscoe, Richard George||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Brittain, Sir Harry||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Croft. Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Allen, J.Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks,Newb'y)||Crookshank.Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent,Daver)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert|
|Atkinson, C.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bullock, Captain M.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Burman, J. B.||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. W.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Barnett, Major Sir R.||Campbell, E. T.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dawson, Sip Philip|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm., W.)||Elliot, Captain Walter E.|
|Berry, Sir George||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chapman, Sir S.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Blundell, F. N.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Clarry, Reginald George||Fielden, E. B.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Brass, Captain W.||Colfox, Major Win. Phillips||Fremantic, Lt.-Col. Francis E.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Couper, J. B.||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Salmon, Major I.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Loder, J. de V.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Gee, Captain R.||Looker, Herbert William||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Sandon, Lord|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lougher, L.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Glye, Major R. G. C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Herman||Skelton, A. N.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Grace, John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dtne. C.)|
|Grant, J. A.||MacIntyre, Ian||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||McLean, Major A.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||MacMillan, Captain H.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macquisten, F. A.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Malong, Major P. B.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Haslam Henry C.||Margesson, Captain D.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Meller, R. J.||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Henderson, Capt. R.R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Merriman, F. B.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. S. M.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Herbert, S.(York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T, C. R. (Ayr)||Vaughan-Morgart, Co). K. P.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Moore-Srabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Ward, Lt.-Col.A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Wells, S. R.|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Murchison, C. K.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. O. L. (Exeter)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Nicholson, Col.Rt.Hn.W.G. (Ptrsfld.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Nuttall, Ellis||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U.M. (Hackney, N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Pileher, G.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wood, Sir Kinpsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Jacob, A. E.||Radford, E. A.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Kidd. J. (Llnilthgow)||Raine, W.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Kindsrsley, Major Guy M.||Ramsden, E.||Worthington- Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|King Captain Henry Douglas||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Lamb, J. O.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hertford)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Ruggies-Brise, Major E. A.||Major Hennessy and Major Cope.|
Bill read a Second time and committed.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Before I move an Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name, I wish to ask the ruling of the Chair. It will be observed that the Amendment covers a very wide field, and I wondered whether it would meet the general wishes of the Committee if in moving the Amendment I dealt with the wider issue involved.
§ Mr. THOMAS
On the putting of the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill, "the whole Debate could be reopened. Sometimes that meets the convenience of the Committee, and the 2118 Chairman takes the view, that on an Amendment the wider discussion can take place, so as to save such a discussion on the Question, "That the Clause stand part, of the Bill."
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If that be the object, I shall certainly offer no objection whatever to the course proposed, which might be a convenience. It is understood that the whole matter is not to be discussed again on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
I am very largely in the hands of the Committee, and my wish is to study their convenience. It must be clearly understood that, if we have a wide discussion on the Amendment, it is not to be repeated on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I fall in with the suggestion which I understand the Minister accepts. It would certainly be for the convenience of the Committee, and in the public interest, that the discussion on the general principle should take place on the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, rather than on the question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill. The proposal means that, co far as Members who are in opposition to the Bill are concerned, the Debate takes place on the Amendment. That does not mean that further Amendments on specific issues are ruled out, but that so far as the general principle of the Clause is concerned, the discussion takes place now. Is that so?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The arrangement certainly would not rule out specific Amendments on other detailed questions. I hope it is understood that we cannot have a repetition of the Debate on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to know about the time that you are going to give to these general discussions. Are we going to be Closured in a couple of hours?
§ Mr. BLUNDELL
I hope that this arrangement will not affect my Amendment, which I understand comes next?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I thought I had made it clear that subsequent Amendments would not he interfered with by this arrangement.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the beginning, to insert the words "As from the appointed day."
The Government have just decided, with the help of their supporters, to deprive those people who are the only people affected by the Bill, of the only opportunity of discussing their position. It is quite true that the decision just recorded was not unexpected by those on this side of the Committee. At the same time the Government have said, "No, we are against any further consultation—although we have had none. We do not believe in the rank and file being considered, therefore we are going to get this Clause before the House rises."That is the decision at which we have just arrived. My Amendment will give right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite another opportunity. If they are satisfied that it is unwise to 2120 consult, if they feel that they can ignore the views of their constituencies; what I propose to ask in the Amendment is whether it would not be fairer whether they themselves would not feel more comfortable if, having voted with the Government, having trotted into the Lobby, having said, "This Clause is to be the measure of the Government's economy, "they had a legitimate excuse for going to their constituents and saying, "Yes, although I was loyal to the Government, although as a strict party man I did my duty, although I helped to carry this Clause, yet I safeguarded it from being operative until the next General Election, when I will tell you all about it."That, shortly, is the object of the Amendment. In other words, it is what we call an essentially democratic Amendment which will truly demonstrate in the Lobby those who believe in democracy and those who do not. But it is necessary in urging this to ask ourselves, why are the Government taking the extraordinary step which they are taking to-day?
I have always said, publicly and privately, that I have a great opinion of the ability of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. I look upon him as one who really knows his job. It is amazing to me that the right hon. Gentleman has allowed himself to be jockeyed intro this position that he, with all his knowledge and social interests and all the work he has done in connection with friendly societies, has allowed a Chancellor of the Exchequer who knows nothing about any of those things to put him into a position which is not only uncomfortable, but which may rob him of £400 per year in the future. How he allowed himself to he placed in that position is beyond my comprehension. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister himself has to some extent explained the Government's tactics of to-day. When the Prime Minister was asked a few days ago whether he would postpone the Committee stage of this Bill, he said "No, "because it was imperative that the Government should know where they were prior to the Budget, having regard to the effect of these Clauses on the Budget. I think it will be generally agreed that was the Prime Minister's answer. What a compliment to hon. Members opposite ! How comfortable they most feel, because what the Prime Minister said in essence 2121 was this: "In the ordinary way I could rely upon my majority; in the ordinary way the Division Lobby would prove my followers loyal, but in this matter I wonder whether there is not some doubt in the case, and I bad better be sure before the Budget is introduced."That is the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's reply. Therefore, the Minister of Health follows it tip and says in effect: "Whatever doubt the Prime Minister may have had in a general way, as between now and three weeks hence, when the Budget is introduced, it will be fatal if I allow three days to go."That is why we have the extraordinary procedure of rushing this Bill through the Committee stage.
In order to substantiate and justify the claim that the Amendment which I now move is fair and reasonable, I am going to submit it on three grounds. I am first going to ask the Committee if they remember any previous case in which an important Royal Commission was appointed, in which that Commission invited evidence and presented a report, and in which the Government of the day actually tok from that report certain proposals but never gave the House of Commons an opportunity of discussing the report? I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether at the last Election, any one of them said anything about National Health Insurance? I have seen the Election addresses, not of all candidates, but of those whom I would describe as the more important and the more likely to be returned—and I frankly admit we had a number of dark horses for which we did not bargain, any more than we bargained for the Russian letter. At all events, I ask any hon. Member opposite, Did he either in answer to a question or in a speech indicate to approved society members that, if returned, his party proposed to interfere in any way with the surpluses of those societies? I venture to say not only did no Member make that statement, but I go further and say I do not think that such action was contemplated, because every Member knew—if he knew anything of politics—that there was a Royal Commission in being, dealing with that subject. Every Member knew that that Commission was taking evidence and that its object was to review the whole Measure of the Insurance Act and make recommendations.
2122 What is to be said, then, of the Government's action; what defence or excuse is there for it? Incidentally, the. Royal Commission presented a Majority Report and a Minority Report. The Government take from the Majority Report certain recommendations, and, before allowing the House to express any opinion on that Report, they plank down these recommendations, and, in defiance of every precedent, say they are going to force them through. It is not sufficient excuse here on this Wednesday afternoon, and it will not be sufficient excuse in future, for Members to say that they did not realise all that was involved in this matter because—make no mistake about it—the approved societies will not forget this procedure, but will ask hon. Members precisely the same questions as those which I ask now.
Apart from the fact that the House was not given an opportunity of discussing the Report—apart from this unprecedented procedure—I submit that the Report itself is the best condemnation of the Government's action, and I ask hon. Members to mark that this is the Report on which, in part, the Government are proceeding. I wonder, incidentally, how many hon. Members opposite have read the Report? If they have read it they will recognise that the majority of the Commission say, in substance, that what the Government are doing in this Clause is fatal to the future of the approved societies. I turn to page 333 of the Report—and I would remind the Committee that at this stage the Commission were in this difficulty. They had heard evidence, and they were in a frame of mind in which they asked themselves: "What were the intentions of the Act; what was contemplated and what recommendation will be consistent with the promises made? "That was the frame of mind they were in when they penned these words.
§ Mr. THOMAS
My hon. Friend has had a good innings, and he is not going to divert me in the least from my purpose. He knows what I am quoting. I said distinctly it was the Report of the Royal Commission which was dealing then with the evidence, and I tried to 2123 indicate what was in their minds at the time. This is what they said.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The actuaries say so. I am trying to explain to the Committee that evidence was being taken. Evidence had been given when the Commission had to consider this question, and the first people they had to consult were the actuaries, and the actuaries said:It is clear, however, that Parliament intended the scheme to be solvent regarded as a whole, whatever might follow from the grouping of risks incidental to the voluntary segregation of insured persons in approved societies.I ask hon. Members to follow that expression. I ask them to observe that the scheme is to be considered as one administered by a large number of approved societies and as a scheme wherein the risks not only differ but are not comparable as between various trades and industries, the result being that some societies show a considerable surplus while a smaller number of societies are always near the border line. The actuaries, in suggesting to the Commission what was the intention of Parliament, wanted to emphasise that "solvency"did not mean solvency for this, that or the other society, but solvency for all the societies and for the scheme as a whole. Let us now turn to page 345—It is impossible to form any definite opinion as to the membership of the societies which the new burdens would place in deficiency"—Those are the new burdens which they recommend—one of the difficulties of the position being that the numbers would grow as the surpluses hitherto carried forward in subnormal cases became exhausted and the full force of the new charges had to be met without the possibility of assistance from this source. We are led to expect, after making the best estimates of which the case admits, that the effect of the new burdens would be to create eventually a condition of deficiency in societies representing about 10 per cent. of the whole insured population.I ask hon. Members to observe that they first point out that the question of solvency is to be considered and determined not in relation to a particular society but in relation to the societies as a whole. 2124 Then, in the latter paragraph, they go on to say that they think there would he a deficiency in about 10 per cent. Follow these words:This is a grave prospect, and although the machinery of the Central Fund is sufficient, we believe, to meet the situation, we do not think we are going beyond our duty in inviting the Royal Commission to consider the effect upon the credit of the whole system of the adoption of changes such as might produce deficiency to the extent here indicated on the valuations of the societies—even though the means of subsequent adjustment existed and were ample for the purpose."Subsequent adjustment"means a reconsideration of the position.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but it cannot mean anything else than a reconsideration of the circumstances as they then might be. The point I am making is this: Here is a Report containing this evidence, and before we have had an opportunity of even hearing the Government's view, they are taking a certain course. We have never heard whether they are going to adopt the Majority Report, or what their views of the Minority Report are, and the societies who are acting under their instructions are not only anxious to know but entitled to know, and, which is even more important, this House is entitled to give a lead and to express its opinion, but before any such occasion is given, the Government seize this opportunity of interfering with the whole administration of the Act.
Another point arises from that. Is it the intention of the Government to allow the House to debate the matter? Are we to assume that the Government do not intend this important. Report to be discussed at all? If so, the sooner they abolish Royal Commissions the better, but if they do intend a discussion, and we are to have a debate, look at the difficulty in which Members on both sides of the House are placed. If we are to have a debate, the Government turn round and say: "It is impossible for you to do anything, either on the Minority Report or on the Majority Report, because we have already taken all the plums that suit us out of the Report, and the rest can go."That is an additional reason why, so far as this House is concerned, it ought at least to have an 2125 opportunity, not only of consulting its constituents, but of saying to its constituents: "I have not prejudiced you until I gave you another chance."Let us see the justification for this attitude. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, when he spoke last on this matter, said:Surely, when we have in the past assisted this scheme so much, we are entitled to consider now, when the State, is contributing two-ninths, to take into account the fact that the approved societies have not only received a rate of interest of something like 5 per cent. which was only 3 per cent, under the original scheme, but they have accumulated surpluses largely at the expense of the taxpayers. I cannot understand how anybody can justify the statement that a matter of that kind is a repudiation of the contract we have made. Is anyone prepared to say, if at the time the scheme was first brought in it had been realised that the circumstances were going to he what they turned out to be in regard to the rate of interest, that the bargain would have gone through in that form? "[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1926: col. 517, Vol. 193.]I rather gather that that statement is accepted by hon. Members opposite. I ask the Committee to remember a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a few weeks ago, in a series of questions that he put to this side of the House. The first question he asked was whether Members on this side would agree, or even suggest, that the rate of interest which is a bargain between those woo loaned the money to the State and the State should be interfered with. Of course, there was a loud cry of "No!" See the implication. "Because the interest, "says my right hon. Friend, "which was contemplated when the Act was introduced was 3 per cent., we, the Government, claim the right to take advantage of the 5 per cent. in order to raid their funds."That is the statement of the Minister of Health. Boiled down, that is actually what he means, and I am sure he would not dissent.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Will the right hon. Gentleman dissent from the statement he made, which I have just read out, that one of the reasons why the Government were doing what is contemplated in this Bill was the change in the rate of interest from 3 per cent. to 5 per cent.?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I dissent from nothing which I have already stated. What I dissent from is the right hon. Gentleman's paraphrase of my remarks, which is generally very different from their original form.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That being so, does the right hon. Gentleman accept the last statement, namely, that in his speech he said distinctly that one of the reasons for his course of action was in consequence of the approved societies being able to obtain 5 per cent. now, whereas 3 per cent. was originally estimated.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I leave the Committee to judge as to the difference between "reason" and "justification." That is one of the reasons, and, that being so, I ask the Committee to examine that statement. It is wrong according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is wrong according to the Government, and it would he a breach of faith and the end of all things sacred in this country, to say to someone who loaned the Government money and was promised 5 per cent., that changed circumstances did not justify a review of the situation. I am going to apply it in actual money terms. What about the people who loaned the Government £1, 000 at. 5 per cent, when the cost of living was at 142, four years ago, and when the sovereign was worth about 8s.? They are still getting their 5 per cent. The Government say it would be a crime to interfere with that, but if the Government anticipated that in the changes of five, years their money would have appreciated to the extent of nearly double the value it was when it was put in, that is not a violation of contract. So far as the approved society members were concerned, they were only entitled to expect 3 per cent., but, because they now get 5 per cent., the Government say they are justified in interfering.
There is another side to this question, and it is this: What were the approved society members under the 3 per cent. basis promised? They were promised a certain sick benefit, and their wives were promised a maternity grant. It is true that the interest has gone up from 3 per cent. to 5 per cent., hut it is equally true that the value, of their 10s. sickness benefit 2127 and their 30s. maternity grant has gone down, so that, instead of them receiving what they were actually promised, they are getting less. The spending power affects them so that they are getting less than the original bargain, but when it comes to interest, of course, the Government come along and say: "Ah, we did not anticipate 5 per cent., and therefore you must suffer as a result."
Let me come to the second point. Surely the value of the two-ninths in 1911 to the societies themselves in their administration shows a remarkable change. The two-ninths is not so valuable now as it was then. I am going to say, quite deliberately, in regard to the words used by my right hon. Friend to the effect that it was not a breach of faith, that it is a breach of faith. Curiously enough, I do not think the author of this real plan is in the House at this moment. I think he is out in the country. Hon. Members will remember that there was just a hint given 12 months ago about this, and it was dropped like a hot cake. The hint came from the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir B. Horne). He first threw it out, but when he found on all sides what the feelings of the House and the country were, we never heard anything more about it. In fact, he took the necessary steps to pretend that he did not quite mean that, but my right hon. Friend cannot get away from it. My right hon. Friend was dealing with this very point, and let us see what he said. I am quoting from the present Minister of Health:I should like to say a few words—I do not need to say very much—about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne). I do not think that the House would desire that I should go into the details of the Health Insurance scheme in a Debate on the Third Reading of the Pensions Bill, but I am myself, I am afraid, responsible for inviting my right hon. Friend to enlarge a little more on his ideas on the Third Reading, and I promised that I would endeavour to make some answer to him and put before the House some considerations which, I should think, had been present to his mind when he first spoke on the subject.See what follows:I am very glad to hear my right hon. Friend disclaim any idea of raiding the surpluses. That, in my view, would certainly be interpreted, and, I think, with some justification as a breach of pledges 2128 which have been given to the approved societies. It has been expected that the reward of efficiency of administration on their part would be the power to use these surpluses in order to give additional benefits to their members. And to say to those who have exercised efficiency in their administration in the hope of obtaining these additional benefits, 'We are going to take away that which you have by your thrift and your care accumulated, ' would, it seems to me, be an unjustifiable procedure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1925: cols. 2366–67, Vol. 186.]That was the present Minister of Health speaking in July, 1925. I would ask the House to observe that any attempt to interfere with the surpluses would not only be a breach of faith, but would be a blow against careful and efficient management. That is the Minister of Health speaking in July, 1925, but to raid £2, 900, 000 to-day is an act of grace as far as he is concerned. He is doing them a good turn. It is all for their benefit. It is not interfering with their surpluses. It is not a surplus at all. Let us examine that point. First of all, where does this £2, 900, 000 come from? It comes from the accumulated surpluses due, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, to the increased interest from 3 to 5 per cent.
§ Mr. THOMAS
None of it? Very well, my right hon. Friend says it does not come from that. That being so, there is no point in the increased interest from 3 to 5 per cent. But, to come back, can any Member of the House deny this? If this claim was not made and hon. Members defeated this Clause, and if they said this would be a breach of faith, can anyone deny this simple proposition, that when the next valuation takes place the surpluses would be the greater by this amount and those surpluses could be used for additional benefit? You can argue where it comes from or does not come from, but there is the cold hard fact, that the thing to which the approved society officer and the approved society member will want an answer is that simple proposition, "Where do you get the money from? And, if you do not take it, then we shall have it."And they would have it, for the purpose of giving effect to what was originally intended in the Act, the additional benefits approved by Statute.
But I want to come back, because the right hon. Gentleman resented the sug- 2129 gestion that this was a breach of faith. Hare let me say that I have always opposed those who have been in opposition to Parliamentary institutions, because I have always believed that the one thing which was essential was for people to believe in Parliament, and, above all, to believe that when a bargain is made by Ministers that bargain will be kept. Anything that destroys that faith and belief is likely to have very serious consequences. Therefore, I have been at pains to try and get out some of the pledges made. Here let me say to those Members who were in the House when this Bill was passed, that they will remember, to put it no higher, it was a very lively House of Commons. The people who were not going to lick stamps have since licked the right hon. Gentleman's boots. They were not going to do all manner of things, and there was what one would call a very serious Parliamentary situation created. It was with considerable hesitancy that the trade unions and the friendly societies took this matter up at all. There are some of us on these benches now who were in the original discussions, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) always took an opposite view. He was all against having anything to do with the Act. But those of us who agreed Lock this view, that, if this Act of Parliament was going to benefit the great mass of the people, we ought to throw our machinery into it, but we did it not after only ordinary consultations, for I do not think there was any Bill where so much consultation took place—not the kind of consultations that took place when there were consultations in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) world not have dared to come and throw, even at the breakfast table, this Bill at us and say it was going to be introduced that afternoon.
Clear and definite promises and pledges were given. It was because of the promises and the bargains and the clear and specific pledges that things were done and that we agreed to administer the Act, but the House was very suspicious. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was not in it. It was not his lob. He was looking on. But someone who did take an active part was the present Secretary of State for War, the 2130 Member for Colchester (Sir L. Worthington-Evans), who led the opposition and who was the Conservative spokesman of the day. He was the man who was putting all the questions from that side. In addition, the right hon. Gentleman the present Lord Reading was in charge of the Bill, and therefore the very points I am dealing with now were questions that were agitating the mind of the House at the time, and the very thing is taking place which some Members actually anticipated.
Just let us see the kind of pledges that were given. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking on the 4th of May, and dealing with the deficiency question, said:At the end of that time, of course, there will be a considerable sum that will have been realised for the purpose of increasing the benefits, and those who come in early will then get the benefit of their thrift by having a considerable sum of money added to the sum which is available for increasing the benefits. … Those over forty-five join at rates appropriate to their awes, but they also get the benefit of the State contribution for what it is worth to them, and, of course, it is worth a great deal.The State contribution, remember, was two-ninths, and it was this two-ninths with which he was dealing. He was dealing, not only with the then prescribed benefits, but with the additional benefits which were provided in the Act. Please remember that two-ninths, he said, would then be worth a great deal. Dealing with the surpluses that were contemplated after the period of valuation, the right hon. Gentleman said:We propose, therefore, to have a list of alternative benefits, optional benefits and additional benefits. … I now conic to the additional benefits. … This surplus will be £1, 750, 000 immediately the scheme begins to work, but at the end of 15½ years, when the loss on the older persons has been wiped out, you will then have an addition of something like £5, 500, 000 to the fund, and, of course, that will involve a further contribution from the State of £1, 500, 000.Please observe all through the calculation is made on the two-ninths.That means £7, 000, 000, which will be added to the income of the scheme after this initial deficit has been wiped out. … What is the kind of additional benefit we have in mind? The first is medical treatment, not merely for the working man himself but for his family. If the societies who administer the funds like to pay 2131 for that they have the money at their disposal. An increase of the sickness and disablement benefit and convalescent homes are other additional benefits. I have a long list of additional benefits of that kind from which they can choose, but I think the most interesting of all would be that, when the fifteen years and a-half have elapsed, when the loss has been paid off, and when you have released a fund of £7, 000, 000 between the State and the contributors, we shall then be within sight of declaring either a pension at 65, or, what I think would be better still—and I propose this as an alternative—if a man does not choose to take his pension at 65, but prefers to go on working, we shall increase his pension at a later stage in proportion to each traditional year he goes on working."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1911; cols. 617–631, Vol. 25.]Increased benefits to the family, increased benefits to the man, convalescent homes and all additional benefits, of which, mark you, the competition amongst the approved societies is the best test of the value put upon them. I know it is easy to sneer at people, because it is said they like to get money for nothing. Anyone has only to see the administration of the Insurance Act to see the care taken to prevent anyone abusing the benefits. Their own men act as detectives really, to see if there is any malingering, because they say to such, "You are not only doing an injustice, but you are robbing us of the additional benefits we want for ourselves and families."Incidentally, it is going to be a very interesting situation now, because when we deal with the deliquent, when we deal with the man who is having a day's sick pay which he ought not to have, and such like, and we say to him, "Do not forget you are robbing the society, "he will say, "That is not a sin now. The Minister and the Government have set us that example."But what is more fatal, and what the Government may pay dearly for is this: Supposing the approved societies take the view that there is no encouragement for thrift and good management. Supposing they take that view and say, "Oh, no, if this is the Government's method; if this is the way we are to be treated for all our care in this matter, then the Government must take the responsibility.' It will not be £2, 900, 000 you are going to save; you will be faced with a very serious situation, and, make no mistake, the approved societies will seriously consider that view. 2132 The approved societies will be entitled to consider whether, in view of the definite pledge made to them, they are not justified in saying, "Then you yourselves must administer it."Because, remember, there is not a Member sitting on the Government benches who can say that he has received from any quarter of any sort or kind—trade union or friendly society—one word except in condemnation of this. And yet, in defiance of all that, the Government are going on. That was the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. Lord Buxton, then Mr. Sidney Buxton, President of the Board of Trade, took part in the Debate. Here let me say I do not think anyone had a greater knowledge of what I would call casual employment at the docks than Lord Buxton, and he took a very great interest in it. He, again, was asked a question specifically during the Debate, and he said:I think the House is generally agreed that it is time that the employer and the State should enter into partnership with the working man in order, as far as possible, to mitigate the severity of the burden which falls upon him. The State contribution is strictly limited in proportion to the contribution paid by the employer on the one hand, and the workman on the other."The State contribution is strictly limited."The point of that is this. Supposing there is an actuarial valuation, and some societies show a deficit—and I am told there are some likely to do it—does the State come to the rescue? Does the State give them a shilling? No, the Act says that they themselves must either reduce benefits or levy upon their members. It is, "Heads I win, tails you lose "as far as the Government are concerned. That is the second Minister with whom I am dealing on the question of breach of faith. I come to the other side of the House—Mr. Bonar Law.
§ Mr. THOMAS
At all events, the House must judge, and, if it does not, the country 2133 will. I now come to Mr. Bonar Law, who said:What I want to know is, are the contributions of a man for this special purpose of compulsory insurance to be available for any other purpose?The reply of Sir Rufus Isaacs, then Attorney-General, now Lord Reading, was:It is not available. Money which is provided for the State scheme is to be used for the State scheme, and no other purpose.That satisfied Mr. Bonar Law, and he give it his blessing. I would quote again from Sir Rufus Isaacs, who said:That surplus may be provided under the Bill to provide benefits which are granted to the members of that society. These benefits are circumscribed by one of the Schedules in the Bill.Observe what follows:The accumulated funds of the societies will be protected.At that time there was a member of our party who took a very active part in our Debates and a keen interest in that Bill —the then Member for Attercliffe, Mr. Pointer. It shows how Parliament wanted to satisfy itself on this particular point, that all these questions were put. Mr. Pointer said:It does appear to me that there is something in the argument that the surplus could be used outside the original intentions of the Act.
Sir RUFUS ISAACS
I quite appreciate what is in my hon. Friend's mind. What we say in regard to it is, that no part of the money shall be used for the purpose. We have always said that a society shall always be able to use the money set free for the purpose of giving additional benefits."
That, I submit, is the best and most conclusive evidence that this House can have of the pledge that was given. If the Government had conic down and said, "We admit these pledges; we admit that a promise was given; we admit that Members are entitled to expect an additional benefit, but, owing to the War, owing to the financial difficulties, owing to the magnificent way in which our Chancellor of the Exchequer spent his£40, 000, 000 surplus, we are in difficulties "—if they had said that straight-forwardly, there would at least be this answer to it, "It is a legitimate case. We can argue it on its merits."We would have fought it. But there was not one of these things. On the contrary, 2134 they actually say, "No, this is not a breach of faith; this is a more scientific way—a sort of Maskelyne and Devant method."I say it is not only unfair, but those who are responsible will at least have to bear their own responsibility.
I want now to deal with the treatment that the approved societies receive, and compare it with the way in which they have helped the Government. Reference has been made to the difficulties we experienced owing to the threatened trouble with the doctors. Immediately the facts were put to the approved societies, they took the responsibility of saying, "The State is in a difficulty; we will help them out with their burden."That was their response. But when they acquiesced in that request, we promised them a Royal Commission, and now, having helped the State, having provided the money, having taken over a liability which they need not have taken over, and which, if they had forced our hand, we should have had to take over—although they acted in that way over the medical benefit when the doctors issued an ultimatum, and there was a difficulty between a strike and a lockout, the Government of the day, having to meet the difficulty, consulted them, and they readily accepted the responsibility. And this is the payment we are giving them ! This is the way in which the Government are returning evil for good. But hon. Members must make no mistake.
Even the laughs from the other side will not finish this question. The Government have introduced many Bills and there have been many Debates and many Divisions in which we on this side have opposed them. But let hon. Members make no mistake about it. When this Bill becomes law, if it does, and when the Budget operates, many of them will remember what I am now saying. When the approved societies, with the old friendly society spirit, and the trade unions, with their encouragement of thrift, and all the other people concerned find out how they have been treated, not even their loyalty to Toryism will blind them to this injustice. It may be that hon. Members opposite can afford to be indifferent at the moment, that they can afford to ignore these people, saying to them afterwards: "This was carried 2135 through the House of Commons, "but I ask them to pause before they take the step. I hate a conflict. I have got into more trouble through pleading for peace than I have for advocating war. I have been abused and condemned more than enough for wishing to avoid a fight and a conflict, and I do not regret what I have done; but I am also a trustee for men. Under a Statute of Parliament, under solemn ministerial pledges, which I interpreted to these men, I said to them, "Join the society and the benefits to you will be so and so. Be thrifty and careful, and you will benefit as a result. Do your best to help the State in administering this great Act, and the benefits will be yours."Now I shall have failed in that trust, because the Government, by their action, deprive me of the opportunity of giving effect to those promises; and that is the position of everyone engaged in the administration of health insurance.
I ask the Committee to ponder before they take the step they are asked to take. What is the amount of money to be saved? Just under £3, 000, 000. The great Economy Bill provides £10, 000, 000 all told, every copper of which comes from the sick, the maimed, and the children, and, worst of all, from the unemployed. That stands out as the monument of the Government's' record in economy. No balancing of the Budget, no arguments about 5 per cent. and 3 per cent., no quibble that this is really not coming from the surplus at all, but something else, will blind the ordinary working man and woman. When that point is put to them they will say, "If you had not taken it, where would it be? "That is the question hon. Members will have to answer. Would it not be far more honest, not to say more decent, for hon. Members to go to their constituents and take their opinion. Would it not be more honest to vote for the Amendment, which will allow hon. Members an opportunity of saying, "I am in favour of the Economy Bill, but I do not want to penalise you until I have consulted you."That is all I ask in this Amendment. That will be the issue when this Division is taken. For these, and many other reasons that some of my hon. Friends will advance, I have pleasure in moving the Amendment, and, though I fully anticipate its fate, I know the ultimate verdict and judgment will 2136 be determined not inside but outside the House.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I rise with very great pleasure to support the Amendment moved in a, very powerful and convincing speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). I agree with him that the Minister really responsible for this outrage is not present to defend it. The real artful dodger is not here, and it has been left to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health to defend something which I think, in his heart, he must feel to be rather indefensible. I was very much amazed by the interruption of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on the question of pledges, when he suggested that the clear statements made by Ministers in charge of the Bill in 1911 did not constitute pledges. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If that be so, I do not know the meaning of the word pledge. Yes, hon. Members may cheer that, but at the present moment they are supporting a breach of faith. I ask, What was the promise? What the proposals were was made perfectly clear in the statements of Ministers who introduced the Bill at that time. A certain minimum of benefit was to be given for the first 15 years. At the end of that time, if the societies were a success, if they had been administered well, it was clearly anticipated that they would be in a position to declare larger benefits. In fact, it was made perfectly clear that the benefits as laid down for the first few years were purely a minimum, and that the whole point and purpose of the Bill was to develop the benefits up to the point where they would have real substance for those who had contributed during those 15 years.
A long list of benefits was drawn up. They did not depend merely upon the statements of Ministers; they were put into the Act of Parliament. There was a schedule, consisting of a whole page or a page and a half, of the benefits which would be derived after the first few years' extra burdens had been wiped off. The 15 years have elapsed, and the time has come when the benefits are due, and when the money is there; but, as soon as the benefits are ready for distribution, the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "I do not care what the promises were, I do not care, even, that I was a member of the Ministry which gave the pledge. I 2137 want that cash to build cruisers, "and he deprives of those benefits the people who far all these years have been contributing on the faith of public declarations—sealed, signed and delivered—made by Statute of the Realm, signed by the Sovereign. They ore now to be taken away. It is the most gross breach of faith I have ever seen perpetrated by any Ministry.
I am told it is a question of economy. If the country were really hard pressed, and it was a question of £2, 000, 000 or A3, 000, 000 to extricate it from its difficulties, no one believes that the 15, 000, 000 workmen who are incorporated in these insurance societies would decline to consider it. If the Government had said, 'The old country is so hard pressed that we want £2, 800, 000 to save it from all its difficulties, "there is not a man who would have refused to consider it. That is not the position. We went through a great war when £2, 000, 000, 000 or £3, 000, 000, 000 a year had to be found, and when there was crushing taxation. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just come in. It is about time he should stand up for the infamy in which he has landed his colleagues. For years we bore all those burdens, and no one came forward and said, "Because of these very heavy burdens, you must reduce health insurance or old age pensions."On the contrary, and I think it as one of the finest deeds I have seen in this House, old age pensions were doubled. I t is the finest thing standing to the record of this country. We increased the allowance for health insurance from 10s. to 15s., and maternity benefit was also increased. Now, when the burdens have decreased—they are down by £200, 000, 000 or £300, 000, 000 since 1920—and when the benefits under this scheme have matured, for the Government to come here and say they will take away this £2, 800, 000, well, a promise of marriage is broken very often for motives of economy, and sometimes it may be a genuine motive, but all the same it is regarded as disreputable amongst the best people; and, where a pledge of this kind is concerned, the least the Government could have done was to have gone to the people to whom the pledges were given and said to them, "Will you relieve us of our pledges? We cannot possibly go on without this extra £2, 800, 000."The Government might have 2138 asked them; but they never were really asked. There was a sham, a fraudulent consultation with a committee which had been set up. It was like going to a friend and saying, "I want to have your advice, "after you had already done what you were asking his opinion upon. I do not believe your friend would be on speaking terms with you after that, if he discovered what had happened, and I do not believe the approved societies will henceforth be on speaking terms with the right hon. Gentleman. He will find it very difficult to do business with them—unless he keeps clear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend dealt with cases where the approved societies are at the present time borrowing, especially the small struggling societies, which include a number of people who are not in very healthy occupations.
But let me put another case to the Minister of Health. Take the cases where approved societies have done well that under the first valuation they have been in a position to declare additional benefits. There are cases of that kind where additional benefits have been granted. I will give him a case. Take the case of the agricultural labourers. On the whole, they are a healthy body of men. They do not draw to the same extent from the society as people living and working under worse health conditions. What is the result? The result is that they have been able to save money, and some of these societies have declared increased benefits. I could give the right hon. Gentleman the case, for instance, of a Scottish society declaring increased benefits after the valuation of 1921; an increase of sickness benefit to 22s. 6d., and of disablement benefit of 11s. 6d. I am assured by those responsible for that society that the result of the present proposal will be that in order to be in a solvent condition they will have to reduce these increased benefits. You may, of course, draw upon surplus funds. You may be able by that to tide over a year, or two, or three years, but in the end, unless you refill the reservoir you cannot go on paying these increased benefits. What is the result? These men who have a low wage, but who have got this advantage from the fact that they are pursuing a healthy avocation, will be deprived of benefits which they are now enjoying, and the 2139 right hon. Gentleman says be has not broken faith! It is a gross breach of faith with the members of the societies!
By the way, may I tell him that one of these federated societies is the Conservative Benefit Society. I should be very interested to know how the Conservative Member for that constituency will explain to this Conservative Benefit Society why he is voting for this Bill that robs the society of benefit for which the members have already paid. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman—and now that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is here, I especially ask him—does he really think this is worth while? Here is something with which we went through the War, and went through the post-War period, without reducing any of the benefits. On the contrary, we increased them. I ask: Is it worth while now, in order to save what is equivalent to ½d. on the Income, Tax, to deprive workmen of the benefits to which they were looking forward for the last 10 or 15 years, and especially at a time when there is so much industrial trouble brewing? Is it a desirable thing? Is it a wise thing to do? Will it not cost the Exchequer itself a good deal more in the end?
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that when you come to consider a problem of this kind you cannot, whatever you do, ensure equality of all the conditions of life. I do not believe that any political party that ever advanced that proposition, that by any legislation you could carry, by any scheme of things you could develop, you could equalise the conditions of life for everybody. It is essential you should ensure the essentials of life to all classes of the community—good food, shelter, provision for medical benefit in the case of health, raiment, decent education—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They would he included. I am interpreting the matter now in the terms of the essentials of life. I think anything beyond that is a fair gamble with life which all classes are prepared to face. These essentials we ought to ensure to all those who conform to the rules of any fair and decent society. It is the business of the State to see that these essentials are procured. We have been gradually working up to- 2140 wards that. We have by no means reached it, but we were gradually working up to it, and I think it is to the honour of this country that we did not cease to work up to it in spite of the War. What will be the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that whilst we were getting along and going towards it, whilst we were going to take a great step forward in the year 1920—because this is the time these matters were due—when we are going to increase benefits or make them adequate and get somewhat nearer, that he thrust the whole thing back?
We are going back not merely upon the Ministry of which he was a member, but upon what has been done by every succeeding Ministry. I ask him: "Is it worth while? "I know perfectly well the burdens of the community are great. I know the fact that we are going through very severe trade depression. There is a gradual improvement, but possibly this may take time. There is no week but what the Government say that the unemployed figures are going down and down by 10, 000, 20, 000, 30, 000. If they really believe that cannot they have enough faith to wait for the prosperity which they say is coming instead of robbing the poor of their £2, 800, 000. If they suspended the building of cruisers for three years—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
One! I think the hon. Member is right. One only. If they suspended the building of a cruiser they would more than meet the money required over the three years, and in the three years the country would be recovering. When prosperity returns and the revenue returns go up the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever it is who occupies the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be able to meet the liability and probably to decrease taxation very considerably. What are the risks he will be running in these three years comparable to the risk he is running now by asking the working population of this country to feel that they cannot trust British institutions to keep faith with them? I have been reminded that when in 1909 I was introducing my Budget with a view to financing old age pensions, and especially unemployment insurance and 2141 health insurance, I was charged with robbing hen roosts. That was the favourite charge. At any rate, I went where there were many eggs to spare and they were all in well-feathered and well-defended nests. I did not go prowling round the working man's backyard or when he was sick in bed to rob him of the few eggs that he had left to him. That would have been a mean thing to do. I ask the Government really that they should have faith in the good will of the people of this country. It will be a great boast when we have got through —and we are getting through slowly—and I have every confidence that we will get t through—I have never doubted but that in the end we will pull through—when we have got a better Government—at any rate I think we shall pull through, will it not be a fine boast in those circumstances for the Minister of Health and for his colleagues, for the House of Commons, for the ruling classes—as they are called in this country—so be able to say that through all this long lane of depression they got through without ever breaking into the hospital boxes, without in the least starving the social services, without depressing in the slightest degree or slackening in the slightest degree the efforts they were making to improve the conditions of the working people of this country, who are our fellow citizens?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The two speeches to which we have listened have come from such important and distinguished Members of the House that I think it would not be courteous on my part not to reply at once, if it be possible for me to say what I have to say between now and a quarter-past eight. The two right hon. Gentlemen have this in common, that they have a like facility for changing their ground. One is rather reminded of that picturesque and hirsute animal that walks in front of the Welsh regiments. We have been again reminded that this is a question of a bargain and of a breach of faith. Never have I been able to understand either from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) or the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) what was exactly the bargain which they say we have broken. I have read over and over again the original speech of my right hon. Friend, and 2142 although the words are there on the Paper, I have been unable to find any definition of the terms of contract which it is asserted we have broken. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) spoke on the Consolidated Fund Bill. As he has had less experience, he is more precise. These are his words:The fraction fixed in 1911 was the basis upon which the whole structure of the finance of that Bill was built. Whatever else was varied, the two-ninths was intended to be constant."—-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1926; col. 1409, Vol. 193.]8.0 P.M.
There is a definite statement, and what I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs himself to maintain when I first listened to him. The original fraction was not two-ninths for both men and women, but for men only. He himself altered the original fraction for women from one-quarter to two-ninths. While the hon. and learned Member for South Shields spoke, I think the recollection of those observations came into his mind, and he changed his ground again. He said that what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lloyd George) had done when he was Prime Minister.was not to take feathers from the pillow of either the man or the woman, but to put more feathers into the pillows of both, and at the same time as he was doing that he said: 'Let us have uniformity, and, since we are making the pillow softer and bigger, let us see that the same number of feathers in each are plucked from the Government pigeon.'"—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 25th March, 1926; col. 1410, Vol. 193.]Let us see where the hon. and learned Member for South Shields takes us. He says "my right hon. Friend in his amending Act increased the benefits, and he increased the contributions from the employer and employed. He decreased the proportion of the benefits that were to be paid by the State, but that is not a breach of faith ", so his argument goes on, as I understood his argument, "because, as a matter of fact, the actual amount of money contributed to the State was greater after the alteration that it was before."Can I fix the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to that? So long as the contribution from the State is at least as great as it was when the scheme was originally constructed and the bargain made with the approved societies, there is no breach of faith?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There were two factors in 1920. I have made inquiries since I was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman in the last Debate. The Bill was introduced by his predecessor. There was an increase in the actual contribution of the State and there has been ever since, because though the proportion was less it was the proportion of a larger sum, and therefore, the actual contribution of the State was higher than it was before and has been ever since. He did not explain that to the House at the time. That was done with the approval of the societies, who were consulted, and naturally they approved because it was giving them more money.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am very disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer my question. He gave me a very long answer, but he has not answered my question.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Really, if the argument of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields meant anything at all, it meant that as long as the State contributed as much money as it contracted to do when the original bargain was made, there was no breach of faith. In the proposals of the Bill the contribution from the State will be very considerably more than the estimated contribution of the State at the time.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The right hon. Gentleman very fairly endeavoured to put my argument, but he did not do so correctly. My argument was that the fractional amount of two-ninths was the basis on which the specific contributions to bring about the benefit was calculated. At no time until now has any attempt been made to take out of the fund any of the money that arises from that fraction.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think really I should like to make a statement to the Committee of what I think about this two-ninths from my study of the question. This two-ninths was not a guess work or arbitrary fraction, but the result of careful calculation. What was the basis in 1911? The hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive my saying that although he every now and then intervenes to give 2144 the Committee a new explanation of something he thinks they have not understood, he very frequently further confuses them. He explained to us on one occasion recently that the contributions originally fixed for a person entering the scheme at 16 had to be larger than would have been required if the benefits which he stood to gain were to be maintained in order that those persons who enter the scheme over that age might still not be required to pay more than the flat rate of contribution. That is not so. The original contribution was fixed at that amount which was equivalent to the benefits of a person entering the scheme at 16. Those who entered the scheme over the age of 16 were provided for by the State. The particular form in which the State contribution was to be paid does not really matter, but it was decided for convenience in the form of a proportion of the benefits. That fraction of two-ninths was calculated in order to make the difference between what the person would have to pay at 16, and what the other people would have to pay to get the same benefits. The basis of the scheme is that a person who enters the scheme at. 16 should not be called on to pay more than the value of the benefits.
Under the original scheme the contribution was 7d. and the benefit 7d. Under the Act of 1920 the contribution was raised to 10d., but the benefits were also raised—to 10½7d., and therefore I personally can credit right hon. Gentlemen with no breach of faith. Persons entering the scheme at 16, paying 10d., receive benefits worth 10½7d., whereas it was originally decided that benefits should be exactly equal to contributions.
What has happened since? As a result of the Pensions Act the contribution was reduced to 9d., but benefits were reduced only to the value of 10½d. Therefore, you have the position that under the scheme, if we made no alterations in the State contribution, people would actually be receiving benefits worth three halfpence more than their contributions. This result, which I have described to the Committee, is disclosed by the Report of the Actuarial Committee. Until we had the Report of the Actuarial Committee and the Report of the Royal Commission —which had received and considered that Report of the Actuarial Committee—it was impossible to say what reconstruction 2145 was possible and feasible. But, it is quite a mistake to suppose that this reconsideration and review of the whole scheme of National Health Insurance arises solely out of the need of economy. It would have had to be reviewed in any case. The original scheme was merely experimental. There was no experience to guide the House or the country as to what would be the result of the scheme, and, of course, it has been necessary—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs pointed it out—that there should be amendments to the scheme in all sorts of ways, and this is the first time there has been a full review of the whole scheme, as we find in the Report of the Royal Commission.
In any case, we were bound to review the financial basis of the scheme at this time and make some alteration in it. The investigation showed that there was a margin in the contributions over and above what was required to provide the benefits under the existing category. The margin was greater than what was necessary even to provide the additional benefits distributed already. The Royal Commission, while disclaiming any duty to say whether or not that margin should be taken by the State on which they were not competent to speak showed there was a margin, and on the assumption that it was not to be taken by the State they made certain recommendations. The first of those recommendations was that the full cost of medical benefit should fall on the funds of the approved societies. That is, of course, embodied in the present Bill. There will remain a further sum which the Royal Commission recommended should be used in a certain way for an extension of sickness benefit. That is the sum which, under this Bill, we are taking because of the needs of the country. The needs of the country are not going to be satisfied by £2, 800, 0000 a year, but in taking a general view of the financial needs of the country, looking round to every Department and every source to see what could possibly be saved and what reductions in expenditure can be made, we should not have done our duty if we had neglected to consider the Report of the Royal Commission, and the opportunity afforded us to take some of the margin.
§ It being a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.