§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to move, in page 10, line 35, to leave out the word "thirty-six," and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty."
Some hon. Friends and myself have an Amendment down to leave out Subsection (1), but I think we shall raise the issue we have in mind more conveniently by this Amendment, which provides that the extension of the transitional period shall be for six months instead of 12. This is by way of raising the whole question of the transitional period and the provisions made under the Bill to meet the transitional period which, of course, are of the very greatest importance. In the first place, let us be quite clear how temporary these provisions are. The transitional period was a device of the Blanesburgh Committee to soften the transition from the system that previously existed to the system which the Blanesburgh Committee recommended, under which a considerable number of persons would undoubtedly have been disqualified from benefit, and a transition period was allowed during which these people were carried on the fund whether they had, in fact, satisfied the statutory conditions or not. The hopes of the Blanesburgh Committee were falsified. The improvement in employment to which they had looked forward did not materialise. That was not the conclusion of one party or another, but of the Committee as a whole. I do not think any party in the House can escape from the condemnation, if condemnation it be, that they did not foresee accurately the development of industrial depression.
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Lady told us it was going to disappear, so 294 that all parties are responsible for the conclusions the Committee came to. From my point of view, speaking as a private individual, I had great difficulty in seeing this lifting of the clouds of which we were so confidently assured. The position was ominous and as long as relations exist in industry such as they are just now, I do not see any immediate prospect of a lifting of the clouds which hang over the country, whatever we do in the way of rationalisation or improvement of the means of production or anything else.
§ Major ELLIOT
The Government did its best to act on the report of an all party Committee. It is true they were mistaken in the action they took upon that report, but I cannot imagine anything else they could do than to have the report and do their best to act upon it. The Samuel Commission is another Commission whose report we thought was very much mistaken, and hon. Members above and below the Gangway have never ceased to inveigh against us for not putting into force more of the results of their examination of the situation. But for good or ill, the transitional period was brought in and a step was taken towards an entirely new development in unemployment insurance, but only a very small step. People who could not be carried statutorily on that fund were carried by straining and extending the Statute, but they were still carried on the fund and they were still insured persons. This provision for the transitory period, it seems to me, takes a further step. It is true they are still nominally carried upon the fund, but the fund is merely a channel through which a 100 per cent. Exchequer grant passes direct from the general tax resources of the country to beneficiaries under this new Clause 12. Arrangements are made in considerable detail in this Clause by which the full and accurate determination of the full liability to the fund caused by carrying those persons is to be ascertained, and the whole of that money is to be carried by an Exchequer grant.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) when discussing this matter on Second Reading, drew attention to this as one of the germs 295 of progress that are contained in the Bill as a step—I think we must all agree that it merits very careful consideration —which any of us would find it difficult to criticise and almost impossible directly to divide against. It is practically impossible, as things stand, to increase the contributions from employer and employed and, therefore, the uninsurable risk which has accumulated in the funds must be dealt with in some fashion or another. The State has taken the step of buying up the uninsurable risk on the fund—a very interesting suggestion—but our criticism of the action of the Minister is that, having taken that step, and having determined to spend this considerable sum of money, she is not taking what we think are the inevitable consequences of that step and is not realising that what we are upon now is no longer insurance in any sense of the word whatsoever, but is really an unemployment relief scheme, Part 2, Part 1 being an insurance scheme, and Part 2 being the carrying of the unemployed persons without any pretence whatever that a contribution is being made on their behalf. That is to say that they are themselves insured persons. That, it seems to us, carries very many important consequences and my right hon. Friend, speaking on the Second Reading, pointed out that there were 65,000 people unemployed wholly maintained out of the rates, to which the central Government does not contribute one penny, and you are going to have 120,000 similar people paid wholly from the central Government and not out of the rates. He said:The only essential thing is to bring those two categories together and to deal with them in a partnership between the State and the local authorities by relieving those people in a more scientific way.… If the State will face up to the problem of the submerged tenth and of how to deal with them in a humane way, then you will find your solution. The whole problem is to combine together the Necessary deterrent and the necessary incentive, the necessary preventive side with the essential restorative side in dealing with that appalling isolated mass in getting it back into industry."— [0FFICIAL REPORT, 25th November; col. 1081, Vol. 232.]The Minister of Labour, speaking shortly after in the Debate upon the Money Resolution, said:The Government have already set up a Committee which is at work upon that 296 larger scheme which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford so eloquently described. I may say quite definitely that there is absolutely nothing in that speech which has not already been in the minds of the Committee.She added:If we can bring forward a scientific basis for the relief of distress, the party opposite are already committed to the support of such a scheme."—0FFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1929; col. 1104, Vol. 232.]5.0 p.m.
The right hon. Lady has mentioned that all those suggestions that were brought forward by my right hon. Friend, the partnership between the local authorities and the Insurance Fund, the combination of the preventive with the restorative side, the dealing with the submerged tenth and the dealing with people who are out of insurance, are already in the mind of her committee and are being considered in her Department. It, therefore, seems to us most desirable that this problem should be reviewed at a shorter interval than the interval which she suggests. It is agreed that it is a temporary proposal that she is bringing forward. The right hon. Lady herself said that they could definitely limit this increased Treasury contribution to 12 months. She wants the 12 months' space because of the committee which is already at work and is apparently about to introduce these further schemes. I think the Committee should certainly, when it is embarking upon this very large and, if I may say so, very novel suggestion—in fact, the first step towards the breaking up of the unemployment insurance system into dealing with the component problems—should examine this closely and review it from time to time. I have already had discussion of one kind and another with hon. and right hon. Members opposite, many of whom have had, of course, practical experience and much greater contact with the problem than I have had, but I have had contact with this problem now for many years in another aspect, the aspect of the residual authority in the local government administration of this country. The administration with which I have been connected more or less ever since 1922 or 1923 is the great relief organisations of the country, and we are dealing here, not with an insurance problem, but with a relief problem, because a grant which comes entirely from the 297 Treasury and is not contributed to either by employer or employed is no longer an insurance proposition at all, and we shall merely muddle our minds, and fall into wrong methods of attack on the problem, if we conceive it as such.
In all administration in this country we have to remember that the unemployment insurance problem cannot be considered apart from the problem of local government, and more particularly the problem of the relieving authority, because all of us who have to deal with constituencies in which much distress exists know very well that one of the great difficulties of dealing with the unemployed or distressed person is the fact that from time to time he moves off one scheme and suddenly appears upon another, and the position of a great local authority, finding the sudden appearance of a number of persons at its doors to whom it has a statutory obligation of maintenance of which it cannot divest itself, is sometimes most acute, because it suddenly finds itself faced with a problem which it has no means of shouldering on to anybody else, and which it is utterly powerless to avert. The ipse dixit of the Minister of Labour may produce an alteration in local finance with which the local authority in question has no means of coping, or in many cases of foreseeing. Obviously, then, there is a case, and a strong case, for the closest possible co-operation between the great local authorities and the central organisation here, namely, the Ministry of Labour.
The great local authorities—I should be wrong if I did more than refer to this in passing—have recently been reorganised. They cover a wider area, they are elected on a franchise which we hope, and which I think will certainly cause more attention than the franchise upon which the relieving bodies, be they boards of guardians or parish councils, were elected beforehand. The unemployed man in Birmingham comes under the review of the municipality of Birmingham, in Sheffield of the Corporation of Sheffield, in Glasgow of the town council of Glasgow, and in the great counties under the review of the county authorities of these new areas. It is wrong to suppose that these great bodies have or will have the same limited outlook which the parochial authorities necessarily bad before. We hope they will be able to take the 298 initiative in these matters. They are themselves great employers. The Corporation of Glasgow is in some ways the greatest employer of labour within the boundaries of the City of Glasgow, and so are all the great municipalities in their own areas.
Therefore, you have here a new authority lately brought into existence, a new local authority, one of whose specific functions is dealing with relief. You have in this Clause of this Bill a section which definitely moves from the ambit of insurance into the ambit of relief, and therefore, we say, these two things are converging, and now is the time for the Minister, if not in actual Clauses of the Bill, or in the Regulations which she proposes to lay, by speech, to indicate to us what she has in her mind, to indicate to us what the proposals are which her committee has been considering, to indicate to us the method of approach which she foresees as the line of dealing with this problem. Clause 12 is the new departure in the Bill. It is the constructive side of the Bill. I might say that, urgent as these problems were before the re-drafting of Clause 4, they have become infinitely more important since that time. The whole problem is revolutionised by the action of the Ministry with regard to Clause 4, and, as far as one can see from the Debate which went on, an unemployed man carried under Clause 12 has to be carried under the same conditions as any other; that is to say, that it is improbable that he will be struck off benefit unless he has refused an actual offer of employment which has been made to him. A greater and greater number of persons will find themselves carried by this Section of the Act, and not by any other.
Here we have a portion of the Bill which the Minister herself says is a temporary portion, and which she limits to 12 months; here we have a portion of the Bill where there is a possibility of active and fruitful co-operation between national and local governments; and for all these reasons the operations of this Clause should be brought under the active review of Parliament, and we suggest should be reviewed, not in 12 months as the Minister proposes, but in six months after the passage of the Bill. It may be that the Minister will say that that is too short. Well, we are 299 quite willing to listen to her arguments on those lines, but we say that this new departure demands the closest examination by this House, not merely on account of the insured persons, but on account of the country as a whole, because here for the first time the whole weight of this new relief is being borne, not by the insured persons contributing to the Fund, but by the general taxpayer and by him alone.
The agricultural workers are paying for this, the small shopkeepers are paying for this, all the persons who can never receive relief under this Clause are paying for this. Therefore, it is only right that we should examine and review the conditions under which this relief is being given. A small shopkeeper who falls into indigence and goes for relief will have to suffer a much more stringent examination than anything proposed under this Clause, although he has been paying in the past for this benefit. An unemployed agricultural worker who goes for relief will have to have the examination which the Poor Law authorities conduct, and he will not come under the benefits of this Clause, although in the past through his taxes he has contributed towards the Fund out of which other people have received benefits at his expense. Therefore, for all these reasons, we say that this is a new proposal, an interesting proposal, a proposal which should receive close consideration, but that it is not a proposal that should be parted with for any length of time by this House.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
I am very glad that this discussion has been inaugurated in such a thoughtful and, shall I say, non-party spirit, because it is important for the whole Committee to address itself to the seriousness of the problem raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). But I cannot help thinking that his address would have been so much more effective if it had been delivered to the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) during his period of office, in order that it might have been acted upon in the period since 1926.
The reference which was made to the recommendations of the Blanesburgh 300 Committee seemed to me to be singularly lacking in certain material facts. For example, that Committee recommends that the transitional period should be used for the purpose of some energetic action by the State to stimulate employment. I remember that the suggestion was definitely made that the Government should see whether it would not be advisable to set up committees of employers and workers to examine each industry, and see whether it had expansive powers or whether it was a contracting industry. It also made the suggestion that the contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund should be one-third from the Treasury, an equal third, and if that had been done, we should not have been in the same difficulty as we are to-day. Therefore, I think I am justified in pointing out that if some of the other recommendations of that Report had been acted upon, the situation to-day would not have been as bad as it is.
With regard to the time factor, I should be very glad if I could feel that it was possible to find some alternative form of dealing with the transitional provisions in six months, but I do not believe that that is so. I believe that the whole time is required in order to have the necessary consultations with the bodies that must be brought into relations. As I pointed out in my Second Reading speech, the big Committee is in being and is considering this question in relation to the general question of the social services, and in relation to the right allocation of the burden that must be borne by the community for those who are not in a position to live an independent life as a result of occupation or their own exertions. I think it must be quite obvious to the Committee that this transitional group, the cost of which will fall upon the Exchequer under the Bill by reason of the fact that they have ceased to maintain their 30 contributions, is not a steady factor every week or every month, but is a factor that will reach its peak point and then tail off again.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The right hon. Gentleman will find them in the Actuarial Report. It begins with this year's indebtedness to the Fund, and next year is the full year, and then it tails off. 301 The position with regard to this group is that we have not yet got, because we have not set up the machinery to get it —I am now setting up that machinery—an analysis of the quality of this group. That is one of the fundamental questions before we can go much further, and we are making this minute examination of the quality of those recipients of benefit at the present time who are not within what we call the insurance range. That examination is proceeding. When we have got the examination complete, we shall still have to have a certain amount of time in order to find out how far we are able to say that group A can never again hope to be absorbed in industry.
That is the proposition, and you are dealing with human lives. You cannot deal with it on a statistical basis. You have to deal with individual difficulties and with individual tragedies, and therefore I can see no short cut, I can see no quick road, to the solution of this problem. But I am convinced that we can develop an infinitely more satisfactory system than the one we have at present, if we keep this in mind, that this is not a party question but a question where the whole House wants to bend itself to the solution of one of the most terrible problems that any civilisation has ever had to meet. I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
The Committee are indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) for his constructive speech on a matter of vital importance. When the right hon. Lady says that he ought to have addressed that speech to the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), she overlooks the fact that a speech on those lines was directed to him by others when he sat on the Government Bench. It is not wholly true to say that only those who will not be employed are not entitled to have their benefit still running under this scheme. For instance, take a shipbuilding and marine engineering centre like my seat at Leith. That trade has been worse hit than any other, taken over the period of nine years. There was one period when the coal-mining industry was worse, but, on the average, it has been hit the hardest. There are inside the great group of people in that trade, who may not easily obtain employment again, a 302 large number of elderly men above 50, some of them approaching 60 years of age. That group of men were included in the first 3,000,000 to be insured in 1912 under the first Insurance Act. The great bulk of them paid their insurance contributions consistently during 1912 and 1913 when trade was good; they never had a day's unemployment during the War period, or in 1919, and did not fall out of employment until 1921, and in some cases, through the actual closing down of yards, until 1921.
That illustration does not apply to the hundreds of thousands of men whom we are now discussing in terms of statistics. I agree with the right hon. Lady that we must think of them in terms of human life as well as in terms of statistics. Take the statistics. You talk about an indebtedness of the Fund of £38,000,000. What is the indebtedness of the Fund on balance at the moment to that great group of insured people who paid up to 1920, and, when the extension came, bringing in £9,000,000 extra to the Fund? They actually, on balance, had nearly £22,000,000 to their credit in the original scheme. That ought not to be overlooked. I make the point now, because in all the discussions on this matter which are bound to take place in successive Parliaments, until the logic of the facts are faced by a Government, it ought never to be overlooked that these men ought not to be pushed off the Insurance Fund, and made paupers while they still have remaining a credit which they built up in their more prosperous days, when the first experiments were made with the limited group of trades. I go further, and say that this is a matter that cannot be dealt with merely in terms of present debt. I am not of those who have ever addressed the Committee on unemployment in optimistic terms. I happen to be the Member who moved the first Amendment to the Bill of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and the Amendment was that the transitional period should remain and that it should not be varied unless and until the Blanesburgh figure, which I accepted for the purpose of the Amendment, of 1,270,000 on the total live register had been reached.
We are now talking about a debt of £38,000,000. Let us suppose that, in the course of 12 months, or 18 months, or two years, that figure drops, either 303 through the efforts of the Lord Privy Seal, or a recovery in general trade. What about the debt on the Fund then? The fact is that the moment we get below the million figure, we shall not have to worry about the permanent debt on the Fund, and therefore I protest at the continued assertions in these Debates that this Fund is bankrupt. It is not bankrupt; it is in debt at the moment, but, given any favourable turn in trade, it will be able to stand not only the insured side, but the older men too. Until this House is willing to face the problem of the men and women who will never get employment again, and separate them and make them a national charge outside the Insurance Fund, and apply its mind to producing schemes of work for them, I am going to take no part in any arrangement, to push them off the Insurance Fund. I can see no possibility of ending these transitional periods inside six months or even 12; nevertheless, while the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove ought to be weighed, I hope that they will be weighed in his own party, and by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and will not be produced every time that we discuss this matter.
The past history of this great experiment should not be forgotten, and the men, many of whom have paid eight and nine years' contributions, should not be treated now as if all you have to do with them is to push them off the fund, which they made solvent, and put them on to the local rates. I hope with the right hon. Lady that the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his friends, when they are talking about the Blanesburgh Report, will not forget paragraph 14, which is perhaps the most valuable part. It. sets out that it ought to be a national duty to make a concerted effort to lessen unemployment by constructive schemes of work. If that. paragraph had been acted upon when the Conservative Government were in power two years ago, and if they had not been overborne by what they called the economic view of the thing, we might have had less talk to-day about the necessity for extending the transitional period, or we might have had a far smaller total of unemployed on the live register. Of course, the Amendment is impossible, but the Committee ought to 304 direct their attention to the constructive ideas in the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I am surprised that we should be confronted with a manuscript Amendment of such grave importance which has such little justification. It is not as though the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced the Amendment is something that had immediately flashed across the horizon. It is something that has been with us and discussed time without number, and it is now brought in as a lever to try and destroy whatever value there might be in a transitional period. It means that the transitional period on its expiration must fall due for discussion either in the late autumn, or the early spring, because of its operation in April. If the period is reduced, it will be reviewed when the aggravation of unemployment is not quite so much to the fore; it will be midsummer, when the public are less aware of the problem in its aggravated form. We are now at a. period of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. It is at such a time, when prominence is given to the poor, unfortunate, weary-minded unemployed person, that they are enabled to get some measure of notice. In the Blanesburgh Report, the actuary's estimate was based on 6 per cent., and it says that until you get unemployment down to that figure, the stamp qualification cannot operate on strict insurance lines. The right hon. Gentleman who was the Minister of Labour in the last Government said, when introducing his Bill, that it was because of that figure of 6 per cent., which he thought might well be 8 per cent, that he proposed a transitional period until April, 1929.
If one examines the position at the time when the right hon. Gentleman and his party thought it right to have a transitional period, and the position as it is now, when they think it right to shorten the proposed transitional period by half, one sees a slight inconsistency. The figure for November, 1927, when the right hon. Gentleman's Bill was under discussion, stood at 1,181,546, or 9.9 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman fixed his transitional period for only one year in the belief that the figure of 8 per cent. unemployment would be reached by April, 1928. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman made the statement that he expected that 305 it would get to 8 per cent, but he well knows that, when the period was about to expire, he had to 'Lake into consideration the fact that, not only had the figures not dropped below 9.9 per cent., as they were in 1927, but that they had actually increased. In October, 1928, just before the review, the figure had increased to 1,356,037 on the live register, or from 9.9 per cent. of unemployment in November, 1927, when the Bill was under discussion, to 11.8. These figures showed that the whole basis upon which it was assumed that the 30 stamps qualification could operate was completely upset, and that was because the Government of the day refused to do that which they are now asking should be done in six months, and which they refused to do during two years. The figure to-day is somewhere about 1,280,000. That is higher than in 1927 when the Bill was introduced. It is because we have a figure greater than that of 1927 that it is necessary again to renew the transitional period.
Therefore, we come to this plain, indisputable fact. You knew in 1927 that you could not make an Insurance Act on the basis of an unemployment figure of 9.9 per cent. You cannot operate it until you have got the percentage of unemployment down to at least 8 per cent. Therefore, we have two years of what I may call a transitional charge upon a fund which, according to the actuaries and the Blanesburgh Report, cannot bear the cost if the figure of unemployment is higher than 8 per cent.; and the borrowing which has been resorted to has had the effect of putting the fund in debt. There is now no choice about carrying over the transitional period for six or twelve months. We cannot avoid doing so. The House and the country dare not let it lapse in April of next year, because of the suffering which would be entailed and of the sudden load which would be thrown on the Poor Law authorities. The outcry would be too great.
Seeing that we have to make the necessary provision, the question arises of whether we are to do it by a direct grant from the Treasury or are to allow the debt of the fund to go on increasing during the 12 months. Already that debt stands at £38,000,000. Are the Government of the: day to have to come to the House every three or four months for permission to increase their borrow- 306 ing powers, or will the House now say "No, the insured person has carried the load for two years. The fund should no longer be burdened in this way." So far the fund has carried the State's burden, but the Government of the day now say the State must carry its own burden, and it is better that there should be a direct charge. The fund would not be in debt if the State had fulfilled even its one-third of responsibility throughout the period that the Unemployment Acts have been in operation. Is it not equally true to say that if they had released the £80,000,000 under the old Out-of-Work Donation scheme, which they got rid of, the fund would certainly not be £38,000,000 in debt but, in spite of all its adversities, would have a surplus of many millions. Then, perhaps, it would have been possible either to increase the scale of benefit or reduce the contributions.
Seeing the fund has carried the burden of the State for so long, who shall cavil because the State is asked to carry its own burden now that we have come to the straining point? Who shall complain, also, if the period is 12 months? It may have to be renewed for another 12 months. Who wants to have, twice a year, the agonising experience of trailing the misfortunes of the unemployed in debate on the Floor of the House? Once a year is quite enough to review the misery and poverty of this class of the community. I would support a proposal that the State should carry the financial burden of those who cannot supply a stamped qualification entitlement to benefit until such time as the figure of unemployment falls to the point of 8 per cent. They should carry the burden at all percentages of unemployment over and above 8 per cent. I am pleased to find that the Minister is resisting this Amendment, and I hope the Opposition will not press it, or in any way try to justify it now that they have called attention to their point; and 1 hope further that the Government, whoever they may be, will give some attention to the easement of the situation in another direction in place of our having to deal with the difficulties of the poor by transition periods.
§ Mr. TINKER
I am opposing this Amendment, but I want to thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved 307 it for the opportunity of discussion which it has given. I realise the meaning behind the Amendment, because anyone who has sat on a court of referees sees what are termed the derelicts of industry. First of all, there are the aged, who, it is very evident, will never get employment again save in exceptional periods. Then there are the men who have been injured in industry and the ex-soldiers who are suffering as the result of their war injuries. I cannot see that these men will ever get any work again, save in an exceptional period of employment. The question then arises, what is going to happen to these people; and I take it that that is the point the Amendment is raising. We say that, for some time at any rate, these people must have protection through the Unemployment Fund, but I cannot agree with the suggestion that there might be a possibility of driving them back on to the local authorities. [Interruption.] I understood the hon. and gallant Gentleman argued that with the bigger areas which have been created under the Rating and Valuation Bill the new local authorities could better bear these burdens.
§ Major ELLIOT
I should like to explain what was meant. That point has come up more than once. It is a little difficult to express it, because whenever one mentions local authorities the inference is that we wish to throw this burden right back upon the local authorities. Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) and I have more than once pointed out that it is more or less a question of administration and working with the local authorities. I think the great burden of the expense will have to come from the State, but that the new bodies which have come into existence are bodies which can consider this question without its acquiring the stigma of narrow, parochial relief; they have an ambit scarcely less dignified than that of the State.
§ Mr. TINKER
I am very glad of that explanation, because later on, when things come to be reviewed, I shall probably call the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to what he has just said. That is our whole idea, that the State should hear the burden of these derelicts of industry. Probably we shall come to a certain agreement later on, but it is our 308 belief that we cannot bring about an alteration in six months—that is an impossible position. We say you have no right to force the Amendment at this juncture, because it will take at least 12 months before there can be any examination of the question at all. Though I think there will be common understanding on the idea put forward, it can only come later on. It cannot be done now; probably it will take more than 12 months. On those grounds and on those grounds alone, am I opposing this Amendment, although I agree with the idea behind it.
§ Captain AUSTIN HUDSON
I hope the Committee will accept the Amendment, because the situation at the present moment is rather a hopeless one. Our discussions have shown the hopelessness of trying to combine two different schemes, a scheme for contributory unemployment insurance and a scheme for relief. I hope the Minister may be able to give us some idea that she is really going to tackle this problem—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that if the Minister did she could not be allowed to proceed. At the moment we are dealing with a particular Clause on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Captain HUDSON
The object of this Amendment is to limit the transitional period by six months in order that, during that six months, we may try to see if a new scheme can be brought in. Boards of guardians, who are soon to be superseded, time after time send resolutions to Members of this House saying how utterly impossible it is becoming for them to give relief to the able-bodied unemployed; and then there is the question of the position of those who are contributors to this scheme. Those are people who are in regular employment and find their contributions used for a purpose which was never intended. I, and other hon. Members on this side of the House, hoped this Amendment would bring from the Minister some statement as to when she would be able to do away for ever with the transitional period and get on with some scheme of relief dividing unemployment insurance into the two parts into which it should be divided, one, relief for the able-bodied poor—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already told the hon. and gallant Member that he cannot pursue that subject on this Amendment.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
With all deference, may I submit that this point is directly material? We have moved this Amendment in order that the matter should be brought up again quickly for review. We do not want to lay too much stress on our ulterior motive for its being brought quickly under review again, but it is that the whole business should be put on a lasting and sound basis. That is the reason; and I think that is directly pertinent to the consideration of an Amendment to limit the transitional period.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have not ruled against discussing a limitation of the transitional period, but against a widening of the discussion.
§ Captain HUDSON
I will leave that point and will merely say that I hope the period of six months will be accepted by the right hon. Lady because she has a hope of being able to bring forward some other scheme in the interval.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) in dealing with the shipping and other trades. The trade I represent, the iron and steel trade, has suffered as much as any other. I think the percentage of unemployment in it to-day is something like 27 per cent, though, according to the statistics reported to our executive while sitting in London last week, the trade has improved during the last six months.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the hon. Member cannot bring those observations round to this discussion on the transitional stage.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Oh, yes, I am going to bring my observations round to the Amendment. Reports that I have received from my own constituency of people who had been refused benefit as a result of "not genuinely seeking work" are being reduced, but those who have been disqualified as a result of the 30 stamps disqualification are getting more numerous every week, because the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is really beginning to operate. I hope, therefore, that the transitional period will be continued, because there 'are people in my society who have been idle for eight and nine years. They have not 310 worked since the slump of 1920—the autumn of 1920 or the spring of 1921. I hope the Minister of Labour will not accept this Amendment, because these people are going to be seriously affected. This disqualification is nightmare to unemployed men in the steel trade. I have letters in my locker showing that this is a vital matter, and had it not been for the blunder made by the ex-Minister of Labour on this question we should not have been discussing this matter here to-day.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I think it is a little regrettable that the Minister of Labour, after congratulating those on this side of the Committee upon dealing with this question in a non-party spirit, should herself have proceeded to deal with it in an entirely party manner. There is not the least intention, under this Amendment, of preventing those who at present are receiving benefit under the transitional provisions from continuing to do so. We want to be able to keep every point, under review, and we wish to continue the transitional provisions. It would be easy later on to pass a Bill dealing with this matter without taking up much of the time of the House or of the Committee. I know that the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) said that we do not want to bring the agonising position of the unemployed before the House, but really what is wanted is to provide that this House, from time to time, should be able to review the treatment which this problem is receiving in order to see which remedy is the best one to apply.
There is no intention in proposing to reduce the period from 36 to 30 months to have a review of this question at a time when the House is not likely to be sympathetic. If hon. Members will refer to the dates, they will see that a period of 30 months has been taken. This would give an opportunity during the summer session to review the position. That is why we considered that, if there was to be an early review, we should have the period sufficiently extended to allow the question to be reviewed at any time during the Session. If I desired to be controversial, I could point to the fact that we have the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for saying that the number of unemployed under a Labour 311 Government ought to be greatly reduced within 12 months, and that the return to power of a Labour Government would create an entirely different situation. That is the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it seems to be one in which hon. Members opposite have very little confidence. That is the true reason why we ask for an earlier time limit.
Under the Act of 1927 it was intended to give the proposals contained in the Blanesburgh Report a fair trial. What was the reason why we could not apply them at once without modification? It was because we needed time to give them a trial. I had in mind what I am urging now, that is, to continue the transitional periods for a definite time, after which it would be possible to go into the whole unemployment scheme with the possibility of placing it upon another basis. I am arguing strictly in favour of an extension of transitional provisions. Last winter, as soon as I had a little time to spare away from the work of the office which I formerly held, I remember carefully drawing up a memorandum which I had no opportunity of carrying into effect. This memorandum provided that we ought to consider dividing the insurance system into two parts. I came to that provisional conclusion after going into the matter myself. That is an urgent matter at the present time, and we want to ensure that it will be done very soon. We object to the extension for a year of the existing system, and we are taking steps to reduce that period because we believe that it will produce a worse state of chaos than exists at the present time. We think that a period of 12 months is too long, and we fear that the way in which the existing scheme has been treated under this Bill is likely to make confusion worse confounded. We are trying to put all the pressure we can on the Government to substitute a more workable scheme.
§ Mr. GOULD
It is certainly clear in the minds of the Members of the Committee that this Amendment reflects a desire to separate those who come under the transitional period from the other unemployed who have a right in contract. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and the right 312 hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) say that the partnership which they desire is one with the public assistance committees. I wish to state very definitely that the unemployed who come under the transitional period are wholly connected with industrial districts which are suffering the greatest distress, and any partnership which the six months' treatment would bring at that period would be a partnership with the rate-aided burden which is oppressing those districts. Any alliance which segregates and separates those long-standing unemployed men and women in the distressed areas from the mass of unemployed will at least create a psychological problem that I believe will be resisted by all parties in the State, and especially by the rate-payers.
The worst result of a review under this six months' Amendment would be to put those men and women in a separate camp, and it would create an opinion in their minds that they have been segregated and driven to accept Poor Law assistance. That would create an unemployment problem of a very grave nature. I hope the Committee will resist this Amendment. We want to create new machinery for dealing with this problem, and if you can by the efforts of the public assistance committees and the employing authorities such as the district councils and the county councils you should draw up some plan to get the men back into normal channels rather than make a new psychology of Poor Lawism with the unfortunate long-standing unemployment cases.
I think the Minister of Labour ought to be grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) for bringing forward this Amendment. The right hon. Lady made a request that this question should be treated in a non-party spirit, but the present Government have always made a party question of unemployment, and they carried out that policy all the time that the last Government were in office when they tried to deal with this problem. The Minister of Labour and her colleagues have had plenty of time to think about this question, and it is very disappointing to find that the Government have done so little in the direction of dealing with this problem. 1 would like to ask why hon. Members 313 opposite do not criticise the Labour Government on this question in the same way as they criticised the last Government?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the Noble Lady to confine her criticism to the Amendment which we are now considering.
We are not disappointed with the Minister of Labour because I am very sorry for her, but we are disappointed with the Government. I think we have every reason to be disappointed with the whole attitude of the Government on this question of unemployment. I think the country will also be disappointed, because many people really believe that the Labour Government would come into office with fresh ideas—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lady's speech would be all very well in the Debate on the Second Reading, but we are now dealing in Committee with the transitional period provided in this Clause, and the Amendment under consideration is one to reduce the period by six months. That is the only question which can be discussed.
The reply which has been given by the Minister of Labour has been very disappointing, and she has given us no hope. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) spoke about dealing with this problem in the summer time. May I remind him that the present Government have been in office all the summer, and instead of thinking over this question and dealing with it, they have been all over the country—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lady must really try to follow the discussion, and come to the Amendment which is now before the Committee.
On this side of the Committee we have constantly been told that we are not interested in the unemployed and that we do not represent the working classes. The hon. Member for West Nottingham was allowed to deal with that point.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for West Nottingham was arguing upon the point whether the period should be six or 12 months, and whether the post- 314 ponement or modification of the Clause should take place at a certain time. That is the only point under discussion.
§ 6.0 p.m.
I am referring to it. The point was that we were not trying to cut them out; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) explained that. The whole point of this Amendment is misrepresented, and, when hon. Members make these accusations against us, we are bound to reply in the spirit in which they are made. I think that it would be far better, and more calculated to satisfy the country outside, if the right hon. Lady made sonic constructive reply, and gave us some hope that she was going to consider this matter in a non-party spirit. We all know that the question of unemployment can never be settled by any one party—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Really, the whole Bill deals with unemployment, but the Committee is now dealing with the details of the Bill, and I must ask the Noble Lady to try to bring herself down to the detail that is under discussion.
I have listened to every word of the discussion, and have heard hon. Members opposite trying to misrepresent the purpose of this Amendment—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. Is it not the custom and practice of the House that an hon. Member who has been called to order at least three times should be automatically asked to sit down?
I do not mind receiving a rebuke from you, Mr. Young, but a rebuke from hon. Members who have been taken feet foremost out of the House is really too much.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
There is clearly some doubt in the minds of a good many hon. Members as to the reasons why we have moved this Amendment. The object of moving it is to make it clear that we 315 think that another Bill ought to be introduced dealing with the transitional period, and with these transitional categories of unemployed people, before the House rises next August, and before there is a long Recess almost till Christmas of next year. We consider that there will be ample time for the Government to receive the Report of the Committee which they have set up, and for the Department to make the necessary inquiries with a view to carrying out what we want to see carried out, and what clearly, from the speech of the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), he hoped never would be carried out. The hon. Member for West Nottingham argued in favour of carrying on from year to year the transitional proposals, of carrying them on on the Unemployment Fund with the machinery of the Employment Exchanges, of carrying on this element of the unemployed who, in fact, have fallen out of insurance. We say that the effect of this Clause dealing with the transitional period is for the first time to take out of and away from the Insurance Fund the chronically unemployed who are no longer insurable, and to carry them as a 100 per cent. charge on the State. That is the one constructive thing, and we believe—
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I do not care twopence about the past. Any politician who worries about, the past is not constructive. What we want to do is to look forward to the future in dealing with the unemployed, and not to get involved in the past. That will not help the unemployed. Let us look forward to the future, and see how we can get out of this state of affairs and do something that is really helpful. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) keeps on repeating the old tag, but that will not do a single thing. We want to get a Bill, and to get it quickly, that will separate these unfortunate people from the fund. They are, I admit, very largely confined, as was pointed out by an hon. Member who spoke earlier, to the necessitous areas, the over-rated areas, which are carrying large numbers of unemployed on already over-burdened rates. We want to take those people, 316 as well as the categories dealt with in Clause 12, and produce a constructive scheme for them quite apart from unemployment insurance. Then there will be some hope of dealing with the chronically unemployed, and the sooner that matter is dealt with the better. We are afraid of what was foreshadowed by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, namely, that something will happen whereby this category of people, who have been unemployed, as I showed the other day, in some cases for three and even four years, are going to fall hack into the fund, and be treated with the other vast mass of unemployed people. We want them taken out and dealt with in a separate Bill, and the object of this Amendment is to make it necessary for whatever Government is in office to produce that necessary Bill before the House rises in August. next year.
§ Mr. DIXEY
A very pertinent and important point has been put to the Minister of Labour. Surely, there are Members in this Committee who are torn by the differences of opinion that seem to manifest themselves on the Government side, and I think it would be very advisable if the Minister would give us mine idea as to where the Government actually stand in regard to this important point. Is it the right hon. Lady's idea at a fairly early date to introduce some legislation for the purpose of drawing a distinct line between the two classes of unemployed in this country 1 Some hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite seem to be in favour of that. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), as I understood him, agreed with the principle underlying this Amendment—he agreed that we should have legislation which would draw a line of demarcation between the two classes of unemployed. [Horn. MEMBERS: "No!"] I understood the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) to take an entirely different view, considering it better to keep one class of unemployed. An hon. Member who spoke subsequently also agreed. What I want to know, and what I think we are entitled to know, is what the Government are going to do on this point. [Interruption.] Any words that I address to the right hon. Lady, for whom I have the greatest possible respect, will certainly be courteous, but I think we are entitled, on art important Amend- 317 ment like this, to some reply as to the intentions of the Government. It would clarify the position.
§ Mr. TINKER
The hon. Member, apparently, was not here when the Minister spoke. She has dealt with that particular point.
§ with unemployment. [Interruption.] I am as keen on seeing that the regulations benefit the unemployed as any man on the benches opposite. What I should like to hear from the Minister is some statement as to whether we may hope that the principle underlying this Amendment will be carefully considered by the Government in a very short time, and some definite legislation introduced.
§ Question put, "That the word 'thirty-six' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 300; Noes, 170.321
|Division No. 85.]||AYES.||[6.11 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, West)||Dukes, C.||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Duncan, Charles||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Ede, James Chuter||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Edge, Sir William||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Edmunds, J. E.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Angell, Norman||Egan, W. H.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Arnott, John||Eimley, Viscount||Kelly, W. T.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||England, Colonel A.||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Foot, Isaac||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Ayles, Walter||Freeman, Peter||Kinley, J.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Knight, Holford|
|Barnes, Alfred John||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)|
|Batey, Joseph||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Lang, Gordon|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Gibbins, Joseph||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Bellamy, Albert||Gill, T. H.||Lathan, G.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Gillett, George M.||Law, Albert (Bolton)|
|Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Glassey, A. E.||Law, A. (Rosendale)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Gosling, Harry||Lawrence, Susan|
|Benson, G.||Gossling, A. G.||Lawson, John James|
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel||Gould, F.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)|
|Blindell, James||Granville, E.||Lees, J.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lindley, Fred W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lloyd, C. Ellis|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Longbottom, A. W.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Groves, Thomas E.||Longden, F.|
|Bromfield, William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Bromley, J.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Lowth, Thomas|
|Brothers, M.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lunn, William|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||McElwee, A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hardie, George D.||McEntee, V. L.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Harris, Percy A.||Mackinder, W.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||McKinlay, A.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Cape, Thomas||Haycock, A. W.||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Hayday, Arthur||McShane, John James|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayes, John Henry||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Chater, Daniel||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Mansfield, W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||March, S.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Herriotts, J.||Marcus, M.|
|Compton, Joseph||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Markham, S. F.|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Marley, J.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Hoffman, P. C.||Mathers, George|
|Daggar, George||Hollins, A.||Matters, L. W.|
|Dallas, George||Hopkin, Daniel||Maxton, James|
|Dalton, Hugh||Hore-Belisha, Leslie.||Melville, Sir James|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Horrabin, J. F.||Middleton, G.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Millar, J. D.|
|Day, Harry||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Mills, J. E.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Isaacs, George||Milner, J.|
|Dickson, T.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Montague, Frederick|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Morley, Ralph||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Samuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sanders, W. S.||Tillett, Ben|
|Mort, D. L.||Sandham, E.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Moses, J. J. H.||Sawyer, G. F.||Toole, Joseph|
|Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Scott, James||Tout, W. J.|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Scrymgeour, E.||Townend, A. E.|
|Muff, G.||Scurr, John||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Sexton, James||Turner, B.|
|Murnin, Hugh||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Vaughan, D. J.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Shield, George William||Walker, J.|
|Noel Baker, P. J.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Oldfield, J. R.||Shillaker, J. F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Shinwell, E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline).|
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Paling, Wilfrid||Simmons, C. J.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Palmer, E. T.||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Perry, S. F.||Sinkinson, George||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Peters. Dr. Sidney John||Sitch, Charles H.||West, F. R.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)||Westwood, Joseph|
|Phillips, Dr. Marion||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Wheatley. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||White, H. G.|
|Pole, Major D. G.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Potts, John S.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Price, M. P.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)||Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Sorensen, R.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Raynes, W. R.||Spero, Dr. G. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Richards, R.||Stamford, Thomas W.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Stephen, Campbell||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Ritson, J.||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe||Wise, E. F.|
|Romeril, H. G.||Strauss, G. R.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Sullivan, J.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Rothschild, J. de||Sutton, J. E.|
|Rowson, Guy||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)||Mr. B. Smith and Mr. T. Henderson.|
|Albery, Irving James||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Herbert, S.(York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l., W.)||Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Atkinson, C.||Dixey, A. C.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.|
|Balniel, Lord||Eden, Captain Anthony||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Edmondson, Major A, J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lane Fox, Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Everard, W. Lindsay||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Berry, Sir George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Ferguson, Sir John||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Fielden, E. B.||Locker-Lampson. Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Long, Major Eric|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Lymington, Viscount|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Boyce, H. L.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.|
|Bracken, B.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd'., Hexham)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Margesson, Captain H. D.|
|Butler, R. A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marjoribanks, E. C.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Meller, R. J.|
|Carver. Major W. H.||Grace, John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morrison Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Merrison-Bell. Sir Arthur Clive|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Hammersley, S. S.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hartington, Marquess of||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Haslam, Henry C.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Penny, Sir George|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Savery, S. S.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Purbrick, R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Smithers, Waldron||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Reld, David D. (County Down)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Remer, John R||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Windsor-dive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ross, Major Ronald D.||Stanley, Maj, Hon. O. (W'morland)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stuart, J. C. (Moray and Nairn)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Salmon, Major I.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thomson, Sir F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Tinne, J. A.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Sir Victor Warrender.|
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
I beg to move, in page 11, line 17, to leave out Sub-section (3).
As this Amendment deals with a rather technical point some explanation is necessary. The explanatory Memorandum states that this Sub-section (3) proposes to repeal paragraph (c), Subsection (2) of Section 14 of the Act of 1927. By that paragraph a. claimant who had not paid 30 contributions might satisfy three additional conditions in lieu of the 30 contributions—one of these being that he had had insurable employment to such extent as was reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. The omission of this paragraph which the Government propose in this Sub-section (3), was not asked for by the Morris Committee. It was not asked for in the Minority Report signed by the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday). The paragraph seems not unfairly to comply with the words used by the Attorney-General on Thursday last, when he gave an explanation of his views with regard to what would constitute a fair test. It seems to me that anyone who has not fulfilled the conditions of the 30 contributions and has not even been employed to a reasonable extent for the previous two years, might be ruled out of the insurance scheme. I also submit that these words might well be considered in connection with the fresh Clause 4 which we are promised for the Report stage on Thursday next. Whether or not this Sub-section (3) should be included, depends very much on the words which are to be inserted in place of "not genuinely seeking work." I suggest to the Minister that no ease has been made out for the omission of paragraph (c). It has done very useful work where it is. It has stopped certain people getting 322 benefit who had not been reasonably insured in the last two years, and I suggest that the right hon. Lady might, pending the Report stage at any rate, leave out Sub-section (3).
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I am not surprised that there should be some doubt as to why this amendment of the Act of 1927 has been inserted, because it deals with a very technical point. It arises in connection with what is known, on these benches at any rate, as Decision 5061. I think it is necessary that the Committee should realise exactly what that decision has done, in order that they may see that the proposal in Sub-section (3) is, as far as we can find, the only way to remedy the real injustice which has been created. The position is this. Originally there were words, which appeared to be a commonsense set of words which no one would misunderstand and which would be easily applicable, but this is what happened. The conditions "not genuinely seeking work," or "not able to obtain suitable employment," or "not available for work," or "voluntarily leaving without just cause," or "dismissal for misconduct"—these are the requirements which are in point in cases of this kind. It so happens that the. umpire has ruled that whenever an applicant is found to have been refused benefit on any of these grounds, that, in itself, is a prima facie case that he could have had a reasonable period of employment, but had not such employment and it penalises him for two years. If this point is brought up when the case is considered under the transitional condition and it is found that the applicant, at any time during the previous two years, has been disallowed on any of these grounds, that, in itself, is sufficient to cause the court of referees under Decision 5061 to hold that the claimant's claim must be dis- 323 allowed. That is an impossible position and the words in themselves are not, I hold, essential to the proper adjudication of claims or entitlement to benefit, because we have the four statutory conditions in any case. This paragraph (c) was put in specifically in relation to the transition period and I have described to the Committee how it has been interpreted and the consequent administrative confusion and the consequent injustice have been so great, that I beg the Committee to allow me to have this Sub-section.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
May I put one or two considerations to the Committee on this point. I have never heard quite so unconvincing a defence as that which the Minister has just given. It amounts to this—that because the Umpire has laid down a certain doctrine in Decision 5061, therefore that doctrine is to be like the law of the Medes and the Persians. It cannot be touched, and on that account a provision which reasonably construed as is good in itself, has to go. There has never been an argument like it put forward in this land before. With all respect to the umpire, he is not a court of justice. [HON. MEMBERS "He is."] Perhaps hon. Members will listen to my argument. Cases are brought before the High Court. They are taken to the Court of Appeal and from the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords. The House of Lords gives a judgment and the principle involved in that judgment is binding, unless it is changed. But it is possible to change a judgment of the House of Lords by Act of Parliament. Therefore you need not necessarily abolish a test like this on the grounds suggested. The whole vice of Decision 5061 can be quite easily removed by Act of Parliament. What was the vice in that decision? In itself this was a proper and reasonable kind of condition, but this Umpire's decision—equivalent to the House of Lords' judgment in these cases —has been closely wrapped up with the conditions about "genuinely seeking work," and to a less degree with the other conditions as well. The objection to this condition does not lie in the condition itself, but in the interpretation of the condition in combination with the phrase "genuinely seeking work."
§ Miss BONDFIELD
That is the whole point. The umpire, in interpreting the condition, has held that a person ought not to be regarded as having had a reasonable period of insurable employment, if his claim for benefit has been disallowed on one of these grounds during the last two years. Therefore, if the umpire, who is the highest authority on the matter, has held that he is bound to construe these words in that sense I maintain that an alteration of the law is required.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am familiar with paragraph 45 of the Morris Report which is, I think, the one which the right hon. Lady has been reading.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
It is dealt with in paragraph 45 of the Morris Report. It is quite clear that the umpire has tied himself up with a decision which rules the cases. I venture to point out it is not the question of "a reasonable period of employment" which is at fault. No one really pretends that it is. The fault is, that he has ruled that he will construe it in close combination with the other conditions of genuinely seeking work. The difficulty to which most exception has been taken—the fact of a man being disqualified for not genuinely seeking work—has already been done away with because ex hypothesi under this Bill the genuinely seeking work condition has gone. And any other condition of that kind could very easily go at the same time. I ask the Committee to think of this because no explanation of the point has been given by the Minister at the present time. You can alter an umpire's judgment just as clearly as this House can alter a decision of the House of Lords, namely, by Act of Parliament. That can be done, and I am asking the Government to do it. If the Committee will really bend their minds to it they will see what is clear not only to Members on this side above the Gangway, but to hon. Members below the Gangway, namely, that they can alter the wrong application to which the umpire committed the administration. The Morris Committee did not recommend that paragraph (c) should be abolished. They pointed only to the fact that it had been, so to speak, wrongly 325 used, or, at any rate, used in a sense that produced a regrettable result by the umpire and by the judgment he gave. The Morris Committee have never suggested this, and what is more, the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) in his Minority Report did not suggest it either. No reason of any sort or kind has been given, and now, after all these conditions have been subjected to review, we are asked to abolish paragraph (c) while as yet the whole situation is pending and open as regards Clauses 4 and 5 of this Bill. It really is absurd for the Minister first of all to put forward a completely mistaken idea of the real gravamen of the criticism of the Morris Report, and, secondly, to leave in this Sub-section when she has taken out Clause 4 and Clause 5 for the time being.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I am rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), having gone so far, did not go a step further. He and the Minister are agreed that this umpire's decision cannot stand, and, indeed, by implication, so was the Morris Committee. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to read the relative passage from that Committee's Report, and will bear in mind that this concerns the transitional provisions:Transitional condition (c) applies in cases where the claimant has not paid 30 contributions in the two years preceding the date of his claim, and it requires him to prove that he has during the two years immediately preceding the date of the application for benefit been employed in an insurable employment to such an extent as was reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case and in particular to the opportunities for obtaining insurable employment during that period.' In a number of decisions given by the Umpire"—and this includes 5061—he has held that a claimant cannot be said to have satisfied this condition if, during the period of two years over which the reasonable period of employment must be shown, he has had a claim for benefit disallowed on any of the grounds 'not genuinely seeking work,' 'not unable to obtain suitable employment,' 'lost his employment by reason of misconduct,' or 'left his employment voluntarily without just cause.'It was contended before us that the effect of these decisions is that a claimant who has once been disallowed benefit on the grounds set out above is unable to bring 326 himself within the condition until he has requalified himself by obtaining 30 stamps, or two years have elapsed since the date of the disallowance.The Committee adds this conclusion:We do net think that this incident of disproof, the consequences of which are so severe on a claimant, was intended or contemplated by the Legislature.It is because of that passage that I presume the right hon. Gentleman is at one with us in holding that the umpire's decision cannot stand. The question before us is: How are we to upset the umpire's decision? We can do it only in Parliament. We can do it only by absolute authority. His interpretation holds until this House decides by law to change the law. It is umpire-made law instead of being Judge-made law, and is absolute in its effect on an insured person just as is Judge-made law until the Legislature alters the law by Statute. If the right hon. Gentleman claims that the method which the right hon. Lady has adopted is either clumsy or goes further than it ought to go, surely, before he concluded his speech, he ought to have directed his mind to telling the Committee what particular form of amendment he would make in the law in order that the umpire's decision, so manifestly unfair, should be upset, as, indeed, the Committee agreed that it should be upset. Having examined the method of the Minister, I have come to the conclusion that it is the simplest way out. The Committee must remember that this does not affect the permanent structure of unemployment insurance in this connection. It really affects the men who are in difficulties because of the transitional provisions. It is in the transitional provisions in the Act of 1927 that the umpire's decision has its worst effect on those men who are nearest the exhaustion of their rights under the transitional period and who are suffering most severely by Decision 5061. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that my argument is a fair argument. If he says that the Minister's way is clumsy, he ought to say to the Committee precisely what he would have done, if he were in charge of this Bill, to amend the law at an early date.
I take another point. If we remove this paragraph (c) are we doing anything to invalidate the permanent structure of the Act? Certainly if those words can be construed in these terms by one 327 of the most able umpires of the Insurance Office, is it not proof that you cannot put into the structure of your Insurance Act any of these subjective tests—that is what they are—without rendering absolutely certain that sooner or later application will be made in some case differing in point of fact from every other case? And the result will be that hardship will not only be felt in the particular case which differs from all other cases which come before the umpire, but it will be felt in thousands of other cases in the same way. I have no alternative to offer the Minister by way of amending the law, but I am sure that the umpire's decision ought to be upset. That was undoubtedly the opinion of those who signed the Majority Report of the Morris Committee, and, indeed, I think, of the whole Committee. Therefore, this Amendment should be defeated by the Committee.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Let me reply at once. I have no wish to prolong this Debate, as we have a lot of ground to traverse before 12 o'clock, and I shall not divide against the Government on this matter. The point is that we all agree that the present umpire's decision should not stand. I have never made any secret of the fact. I am clear, too, that the Morris Committee did not recommend the complete abolition of it. They did not mention it in their summary of recommendations. I can only say to-day that this sort of business is just another stage in the making of the whole of the system as proposed to be amended by this Bill, a thing that cannot last more than a few months.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I want to ask the Minister a question on this Clause. I do not wish to do so from the point of view of obstruction. What exactly is the meaning of Sub-section (2)? I have read, of course, the explanatory memorandum, but how does she pass from that Sub-section to the third part? How and why does that arise? In paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2) the right hon. Lady will see that, first of all, the 328 Treasury undertake to shoulder the amount of the cost up to the date of the beginning of this Act. The transitional provision is extended by reason of the words "or as extended by this Section." That is the second burden of the Treasury. Then we have lines 6 to 13, which also deal with a particular additional sum. I wish she would explain exactly what that is.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
These words provide for the Exchequer to bear the cost of a small part of the benefit paid under the original transitional period of 12 months. That is quite clear. The Exchequer will bear approximately half the cost of transitional benefits paid after 31st March, 1929, to 18th April, 1930, and, secondly, the whole of the cost of the extension of the transitional period made by the Transitional Provisions Amendment Act after 18th April, 1929; and also the whole of the cost of the extension of the transitional period to be made by Sub-section (1) of Clause 12 of the present Bill from April, 1930, to April, 1931.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Is the right hon. Lady sure that there has not been a misprint somewhere? I am thinking of the provision in Sub-section (2) which says:Sums paid at any time after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-nine, by way of benefit under the said sub-section as originally enacted to persons whose benefit years began in the period between the thirty-first day of March and the nineteenth day of April in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-nine; and.Clause 16 (7) provides that:This Act shall, except as otherwise expressly provided, come into operation on the thirteenth day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty.Surely, the right hon. Lady means that it ought to be on the 31st day of March, 1930, because it is a question of the benefit year running. I will not further take up the time of the Committee, but I would like the Minister to look into the matter and see if there has not been a little slip.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is the overlap. The 31st March, 1929, is the correct date. I will, however, look into the matter.
§ Clauses 13 (Minor Amendments) and 14 (Application to Scotland), ordered to stand part of the Bill.