§ Miss BONDFIELD
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, to leave out from the word "who," to the end of the paragraph, and to insert instead thereof the words:habitually work for less than a full week, and by the practice of the trade in which they are employed nevertheless receive earnings or similar payments of an amount greater than the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district.When this matter was being debated in Committee, the House will remember that a very real point was made by several hon. Members speaking from the benches behind me. Criticism was made by the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Dukes), the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Partick (Mr. McKinlay), and I promised after that discussion that I would go most carefully into the points raised and see whether or not the wording of the Clause could be revised in order to meet those objections and difficulties. I want to say straight away that it was my intention that the Clause should cover those points which were raised, but, on further examining the words in the light of the discussion, I came to the conclusion that they were too widely drawn and that it was possible to read into those words as an actuality many of the fears expressed in that Debate. I am therefore submitting to the House a form of re-wording. The wording is, of course, divided on the Order Paper into two parts. I take it that we shall be in order in dealing with the whole question in the one Debate and that when we come to the second Amendment on the Order Paper, there will, with the permission of Mr. Speaker, only be a formal vote taken. The first Amendment in itself in more limited than the words in the Bill, and it is definitely 1302 intended to exclude those people who are working short time because of slackness of trade. It is not intended, although it is a very big problem, to deal with the people who are working short time owing to slackness of trade where instead of dismissing workers the employer has to spread out the employment over the area of workers. That point was discussed by the Commission. It is embodied in the interim report under the phrase, "Methods of industrial organisation." I am purposely not dealing with that class at all, because I realise that, however much the system may be criticised and however much there may be a danger that in the long run it may lead to industrial inefficiency, or for whatever reason criticism may be passed, it is a matter upon which there is such a strong difference of opinion among employers, that I feel it is only possible to deal with it in any satisfactory way in relation to the general recasting of the scheme which cannot take place until the Commission's report is before us. It is just possible that the wisdom of the House may decide that of two evils that is the lesser evil, but, apart from that, I hope that I have made it adequately clear that I am not touching that class of case at all.
There is another class of case with which the Commission specifically deal, and that is the case of the man who very often works for a portion of the week, very intensively. It may be that he works night and day without cessation. It may be that he puts into two days 36 hours' work, and, because of his trade union regulations and the practice in the industry, it is recognised as specially heavy, dangerous, or laborious work, and it is paid for at special rates. It is not related to bad trade at all. It has nothing to do with bad trade, but with the incidence of work in the industry it-self. I do not say that it is very extensive; I do not believe that it affects a large number of persons—but we hold that those persons are not unemployed in 1303 the ordinary sense of the term at all, but that they are, as a matter of fact, intensively employed for a shorter period, that their earnings are regulated accordingly, and that during the rest of the week they do not require work. They are for the most part—I do not say in every case, but generally speaking—the group we had in mind, and the cases given to the Commission were generally of those persons who require the rest of the week for recuperation and recovery from the strain of the special work. I do not think that it was ever contemplated by any responsible trade unionist or by the public at large that those persons, in addition to those exceptional opportunities for work, should also draw two, three, or four days unemployment benefit. It is that particular category that is being dealt with in the Clause that I have brought before the House.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. The right hon. Lady says that the class that is intended to be covered by this Clause is that class who work intensively for, say, two days for a period of 36 hours. Is that not the class covered by paragraph (c).
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is possible that I did not finish my argument and that there is some misunderstanding. I coupled, or intended to couple, that work with exceptionally high earnings. It may not be work for two days but it may be for three days. It may not be a weekend, but it may be the middle of the week. It may be whenever a ship comes in, or whatever tide serves. It is, therefore, not covered by paragraph (c). It is the point and the only point where we are taking into account substantial earnings, and where the factor of earnings comes in. In connection with paragraph (c) the question of earnings does not arise. It is a question there of employment; the definite fixation of employment, where a person does not desire, for personal or other reasons, to work more than two days a week. Under paragraph (a) come the other categories where, because of the nature of the work, there are substantial earnings in excess of the normal earnings in the trade. It is on the point of substantial earnings that the whole Clause turns.
I have added further restrictive words in the second part of the Clause. Let me 1304 restate the position as to the powers that I am taking in this Bill. In paragraph (a) I have only taken power to deal with those persons whose work is of an intensive nature and is usually paid for at special rates. Those two things go together. Those are generally persons who do not require work during the rest of the week. They require to have time to get over the additional strain of the exceptional work, and it is only during the period of such exceptional earnings that the regulation can apply. If those persons come down to a different position and are in the same category as all the other normal people earning normal ordinary wages, and they become unemployed, they will then receive their benefit precisely as they do now. If they become wholly unemployed during the week, then during that week of total unemployment they will be entitled to receive their benefit. I want to make that perfectly clear, because it is very necessary that it should be clear that this Clause does not deal and is not intended to deal with normal wages spread over a large number of persons because of slackness of trade. That relates to a much larger problem of industrial organisation, with which this Bill does not attempt to deal.
The further restricting words relating to paragraph (a) are included in the Amendment in page 2, line 23, at the end, to insert the words:(3) The regulations made under this Section in relation to persons of the class specified in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2) of this Section shall not operate so as to reduce the amount of benefit otherwise payable to any person in respect of any week by more than the amount by which the aggregate of the earnings or similar payments received by him in that week and of the benefit aforesaid exceeds the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district.Those words are put in definitely to prohibit me from making regulations outside the scope of the words in paragraph (a). The criticism may very easily be launched that the area is so small, and it may be asked, is it worth while to attempt to deal with the matter. My answer is, yes, because that is the area in which the sensational critics have found their isolated cases with which to challenge the honesty and decency of unemployed men. It is because I want to track down those cases and to present 1305 to the House the number of those cases, which I believe to be small, and because I want to state precisely what the earnings are—they are often greatly exaggerated—that I have put down this Amendment. I recognise that the Clause will be difficult to work, that it will be a most awkward piece of administrative machinery, but I am honestly going to make an attempt, if the House will permit me to do so, in the interests of the insured persons, because we have to lie down under the slanderous statements about men earning £8, £10 and £12 a week, and drawing unemployment benefit. We know that such isolated cases do exist, and nobody wants them to exist. There is not a genuine trade unionist on these benches who wants them to exist.
Therefore, I am going to make an honest effort to segregate that type of case and see whether by regulation we can work out a system by which men who are definitely employed at a wage which is a full week's wage, although they are able to compress their work in a shorter period of time than a full week, can be dealt with. That is the class of case for which this Clause is drafted. Therefore it is necessary to have it specially drafted, because it rests upon the amount of earnings. It may be that some hon. Members will want me to say categorically to what trades it will apply. I cannot say to what trades it will apply. It is an unknown area. I am only asking for power to explore. I do not know, except in one or two outstanding instances, in what direction we shall find these cases. I have tried by the wording of the Amendment be make the matter so clear that there shall be no mistake about what we mean.
There is one further explanation that I might give as to the period which will be regarded as habitual. I do not intend to try to regulate for the man who gets an exceptional week's work. That is not the case. It will have to be shown by the register that the man has been drawing benefit habitually for some period of time. I am not in a position this afternoon to say what that period of time will be, but I have in my mind four weeks or six weeks as an indication. We shall have to make a regulation which will lay down the period which is to be examined before any benefit is stopped. 1306 At the same time, we must safeguard the position, so that when a man ceases to be on the well-paid job and reverts to a less well-paid job, he will take up his position under the insurance scheme precisely where he leaves off, and he will not be penalised when he is wholly unemployed. I hope the House will accept the wording of the Amendment. I thank hon. Members behind me for their criticisms, which have enabled me to see where the weakness of the Clause lay and to try to put it into a form which will limit my powers to the extent of trying to deal with that particular class of high-paid wage-earner who nobody believes ought to take unemployment benefit in addition to high earnings.
§ Sir HENRY BETTERTON
I only propose to take up the time of the House for a few minutes. No useful purpose would be served by attempting to conceal from ourselves or the country that the Amendment moved by the right hon. Lady has entirely altered the scope of the Bill and has, for all practical purposes, cut out paragraph (a). The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) some time ago congratulated the right hon. Lady on having vindicated her authority by refusing to yield to pressure. If one thing could be more certain than another it is that the right hon. Lady has yielded to pressure and has given way.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
She has given way to the pressure which was put upon her in the early hours of the morning. Those of us who were there will remember that an Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), in which he sought to strike out paragraph (a). The hon. Member has been described as a rebel. Whether he be a rebel or not it is perfectly certain that hon. Members opposite were only too anxious to garner the fruits of rebellion which he himself has raised. The right hon. Lady has given way to the whole demand that was made by the hon. Member for Gorbals. When the Bill was originally produced it was perfectly clear in paragraph (a) that the regulations which were to be made coveredearnings or similar payments.… of such substantial amount as may be so prescribed.1307 When those words were inserted, either the right hon. Lady did not understand what they meant or she was genuinely anxious to deal with the anomalies which that paragraph (a) was intended to cover. It is now clear that she intends to do nothing of the kind. Therefore, we on this side who have always had our suspicions that the Government have no intention of really facing up to the position are fully justified in the suspicions which we held, and which we think are now confirimed. I have given the best attention that I could to this complicated matter and it docs not seem to me that the wording of the Amendment covers anything at all. The cases which are covered, if they exist, are of infinitesimal dimensions. It does not even cover the case which has been quoted over and over again and which was quoted in the report of the Royal Commission, that of the coal trimmers. We had illustrations of coal trimmers who pooled their earnings and for a three days' week got £4 or £5 and drew benefit for the rest of the week. As far as I can see, those cases are not covered. If we look at the wording of the Amendment, we note that it says:or similar payments received by him in that week and of the benefit aforesaid exceeds the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district.The only result will be that coal trimmers in the future, as in the past, will work their three days per week and get their wages of £5, that is, the figure mentioned in the report of the Royal Commission, and get their unemployment benefit for the other days of the week. I should have thought that the number of persons who are habitually working short time and earning more than the normal earnings for a full week's work are infinitesimal, and if that is the case then the classes covered by this proposal are absolutely negligible. Therefore, the Bill, as it is now altered by this Amendment, goes but a very short way indeed to deal with the anomalies referred to by the Royal Commission. It is clear that the Government have very little intention of dealing with these anomalies, and it is also clear that the Government have done exactly what they did in 1929 when they yielded to the first attack by the hon. Member for Gorbals and the hon. Member for Bridgeton, 1308 which has resulted in the present situation. They are yielding again on this occasion to an attack from the same quarter, and are reducing the value of the Bill to practically nothing.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I desire to express my thanks, and the thanks of those who act with me as industrial representatives in this House, to the Minister of Labour for the readiness she has shown to meet what were undoubtedly very serious and disturbing thoughts as the Bill was originally drafted. When the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Dukes) raised this question in the early hours of Thursday morning last, and it was seen where our fears really lay, I felt that we should ultimately be able, after consultation, not by bringing pressure, to find words which would meet our fears. The proposal now before the House is one which has given entire satisfaction, and dispels many of the doubts and fears which at one time existed. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Lady say that all short-time workers in industries which work short time in consequence of slackness of trade are to be placed entirely outside the possibility of a regulation being made which would deny them any portion of their legitimate claims to insurance benefit on such days as they are unemployed.
It is well known that trade union officials and the great industrial organisations have come to arrangements for short-time work, so that rather than a large number of men should be totally unemployed they will share such work as there is, in order that all should participate in part earnings and part unemployment insurance benefit. It enables them to make a provision for maintenance which they otherwise would be unable to make. In addition, the workers will be more efficient when trade eventually picks up. There was a fear that the piece-worker and the task worker, the payment-by-result worker, on short time might have been brought within the original wording of the Bill, but that is now set aside. In the engineering trade, as I understand, it does not follow that three days on piece-work or payment by result will, whatever the measure of monetary return, interfere with their right to draw their unemployment benefit, because it is an arrangement of labour 1309 due to slackness of work. Whatever money results as a consequence of their working on piece rates, or payment by results, it cannot in any way interfere with their right to draw unemployment benefit for the days they are unemployed. Therefore, that sweeps away those categories which we felt were never intended to be, but which might be brought within the scope of a regulation.
I agree with the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton) that there have been a great many slanderous statements broadcast about men going home with many pounds per week and drawing unemployment benefit. I had to stand cross-examination before the Royal Commission on this point, but when you inquire as to the volume of such abuses all you get is one isolated case, to which someone had called the attention of somebody else, who called the attention of somebody else, and eventually a Member of Parliament had had his attention called to it and he at once felt that it represented a whole class of abuse. I am convinced that you will find, under the proposal now before the House, very few proved cases which will warrant any regulation at all being made to deal with what the public outside has been led to believe is a gross abuse of unemployment benefit. There will be very few cases which will be able to stand examination from the advisory committee. I should imagine that before the Minister of Labour submits a draft regulation dealing with any half dozen or a dozen cases, which might now be brought within the scope of this proposal, she will be able to ascertain what truth there may be in those cases, and if she is satisfied that there is nothing in them, there will be no need for her to issue a draft regulation for the consideration of the advisory committee. If she feels that she would like the aid of an inquiry by the advisory committee then they have the right to call in representatives of the very men whose employment benefit might be threatened.
I appreciate the action of the Minister of Labour in this matter, and the way she has met our fears. She has done so fully, and in a way which we might expect. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Rushcliffe that the sting of a possible misapplication of 1310 the Clause as originally drafted has now been removed, and that the proposal has made the Bill almost innocuous. There may be no value in it now. It may be said, If that is so, why have it at all? I think it is necessary for the reason which the right hon. Lady has given, in order that, if such statements as to abuse are again published, she will be able to take them up in defence of the unemployed. I call this proposal a proposal for the protection of the unemployed, because I am certain that the cases will be so few that it will be hardly necessary to issue a regulation under it. I hope the House will give its unanimous consent to the proposal.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am sorry if I have to break the harmony of our proceedings. I have listened to the Minister of Labour with the utmost interest, and also to the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday). I understood that this Bill had been thoroughly examined and had obtained the approval of responsible trade union representatives. The Second Reading was taken, and we reached the Committee stage; but there was no suggestion from any representative of the trade unions that there was anything wrong with the Bill, which is one to remove anomalies which no one could defend. To-day we have the Minister of Labour telling us that when the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Dukes) and others let her understand their apprehensions with regard to this provision, she decided to see whether their apprehensions were really justified, and she has now introduced this new proposal.
There was never a word from the Minister of Labour for the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who made it clear in the Committee what the original words in the Bill were going to do. There was not the grace of a single word of thanks to the hon. Member for Gorbals because of the explanation that he gave. While it may be a matter of kudos, at least it would have been only gracious and only ordinary courtesy if the Member who was primarily responsible for making clear the danger in connection with the previous words, had not been specifically excluded from the thanks. The Minister has now given us an assurance that this provision is not 1311 going to apply to general short-time workers who are on short time owing to industrial depression. I do not know whether that will relieve the apprehensions of representatives of trade unions in this House. I have here a report which represents the point of view of the Trades Union Congress. It is what the Trades Union Congress sends to speakers and to Members of the Labour party. On page 1568 there is this:If it is true that there are short-time workers who earn a normal week's wages in three days and draw unemployment benefit for the other days, it is an anomaly that the trade union movement refuses to defend, and leaves it to the I.L.P. to defend it.The Minister of Labour is not here; the Parliamentary Secretary is not here. I am fortunate, perhaps, that the Attorney-General is here. [Interruption.] I notice that some hon. Members rather resent my statement about the Minister of Labour not being here. Far be it from me to suggest that an hon. Member or a Minister should be here all the time throughout a Debate. They are only human. But I want to point out that this question arose primarily out of a criticism that was directed to this Bill by some of my hon. Friend and myself.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Lawson)
The right hon. Lady has been in her place here continuously since before four o'clock. I suggest that at least it would be courteous to acknowledge that fact.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I am very pleased to take a lesson in courtesy from my hon. Friend. I do not press the point. What I was wanting to get at in drawing attention to the fact that the Minister was not here was that, while I agree that a person cannot sit an unlimited time on the Front Bench, it is of the utmost importance, in view of the statement that I have read, to try to get at what is really going to be the position now. The Minister of Labour has given us an assurance that it is not proposed to deal with short-time workers who are on short time on account of industrial depression. I want to know whether it will deal with short-time workers who earn a normal week's wages in three days. Perhaps the Member of the Government who is to reply 1312 will answer that question. If short-time workers who earn a normal week's wages in three days are included, it appears to me that the apprehensions of hon. Members on these benchs may be awakened again—the apprehensions of representatives of the miners and of those employed in the shipbuilding industry. We have had the assurance of the Minister, but assurances are not sufficient. Right throughout this Unemployment Insurance legislation we have found that that is the case again and again. In 1924 the present Secretary for War gave me an assurance with regard to "not genuinely seeking work," and I had not the slightest doubt that that assurance would be fully implemented, but we had the sad experience of the operation of the "not genuinely seeking work" provision. I want the House to look at the new words in this Clause:Habitually worked for less than a full week.The Minister agrees that the interpretation of "habitual" will be a matter of great importance. She said that she was not sure whether it would be four weeks or six weeks. Suppose that we take the wider period of six weeks, and read it as:persons who for a period of six weeks work, for less than a full week,and then by the practice of the trade in which they are employed receive earnings or similar payments of an amount greater than the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district. Suppose that you have them working less than a normal week. Suppose that you have a person who is employed in the one week for four days and in the other week for five days. You might have short-time ruling in a series of pits in a given district, while in another series of pits they are not on short-time. For six weeks the pits have been on short-time. Then the miners will come under this provision? The second point of importance is whether the people concerned received earnings or similar payments of an amount greater than the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district. Suppose that the larger proportion of pits in a district are on day wages and the normal earnings are the earnings of the worker who is on day wages. Suppose also that some of the people on short time are working on 1313 piece rates and are able in those nine days in the fortnight to earn in each of the weeks on an average more than the normal earnings of the people who are on day wages. I take it that those miners are included? Before your period of six weeks occurs that is to rule—the interpretation of "habitual."
The persons concerned in an industry may have had previous unemployment which has enabled them to fulfil the conditions with regard to the observance of the waiting period. I believe that those workers will come in. I ask the representatives of the Government what is there in these words? We have had the Minister's assurance but everything depends on what is really in the words of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Possibly the Minister of Labour will tell me that she does not know. When we asked for a concrete instance, who are the people who will be concerned, the Minister said that she did not know. She knows only that it will not apply to short-time workers who are on short time owing to industrial depression. But she is going to embark upon this exploration, and perhaps the exploration will take her into the inclusion of these people who are on short time. "What then is to happen? [An HON. MEMBER: "Perhaps!"] It is only "perhaps," but it has been "perhaps" pretty much ail along in connection with this Bill. In any case I was not the first to use the word "perhaps." I asked the Minister to whom it would apply. I asked "Will it apply to so-and-so?" She said, "Perhaps." I want to get something sufficiently definite so that we may know where we are going. Let us be given concrete instances. We have been told that the unemployed have been subject to many slanders. There have been misstatements in the Press about members of the working classes who have been earning big money and drawing unemployment benefit, and when we have tried to find out who they were we could not get any exact information. It was "perhaps" there were some people. That was what the Minister told us. Because "perhaps" there were these people, we are obliged to have this Bill and this Clause and this explanation.
I would point out to the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) that the special case he gave with regard to the administration of unemployment insurance, may still get bene- 1314 fit under the operation of these new words. If a man earns £7 or £8 a week in three days, and it is less than the normal earnings of that class of worker in the week, then he goes on drawing benefit. The one anomaly that worries people is not going to be dealt with in the Bill. The Minister would have been far better advised to have cut out this paragraph altogether. We would then have had more than a simple assurance; we would be in a definite position, and there would be no "perhaps" about it. Miners, shipyard workers and other workers on short time, through no fault of their own, would not then be in the dangerous position in which they may be under the operation of this paragraph.
§ Sir DONALD MACLEAN
Undoubtedly this position is extraordinarily difficult and complex. After considerable study of the Amendment. I do not like it, and would like some more information as to what it really means. I should have thought that the powers contained in the Bill would have been allowed full play with the classes intended to be included in paragraph (a). I was not present at the Debate in the early hours of the morning, and perhaps speak with some lack of knowledge of the information then given to the Committee, but speaking for myself, if the effect of this paragraph is that, if any worker is entitled in two, three or four days to receive the normal wage and is also entitled to receive benefit, then it is entirely against the decision of the House on Second Reading.
As far as I read the Clause, that is not the effect of it. Let me see if I understand the effect. It may be this: A man earns less than the normal amount in two or three days' work. As the Clause originally stood, he might be deprived of receiving any benefit at all, and this Amendment is designed to form something like a sliding scale whereby on the unemployed days he might receive some part of the benefit, which would enable him, at the end of that week or whenever he claims it, to receive wages loss the normal plus the benefit bringing him up to the normal. I do not know whether that is the intention or the effect of the Amendment or not. If that is so, then I agree there is a considerable amount to be said for it, but, if, as is 1315 suggested, a worker who earns the normal wage of his avocation in two or three days is then enabled to get unemployment benefit, then that is what the House did not intend when it passed the Second Reading of this Bill.
I would ask another question. Take the case of the coal trimmers, who are a very special class. They do not belong to the ordinary trade unions, and they have a union which operates at the coal loading ports. At nearly all the coal loading ports—certainly at that with which I am acquainted—they have an average payment of £4 10s. a week, which the man gets whether he works or not. Is the effect of this Amendment still that in those circumstances he is going to receive benefit because he receives the normal wage? That is not intended, and ought not to be intended. If that is the effect of the Clause, there is going to be no mitigation of what I regard as an abuse of the Acts, that men earning at that rate should still be entitled to benefits. In that case I could not support the Amendment because, if I did so, I would be going back on the whole of my opinions. I know how difficult the question is and I am sure my hon. Friend above the Gangway appreciates it also.
It is a very serious matter that the insurance system is now being largely operated by employers and employed as a subsidy for wages. Let us be perfectly frank and face it. It may be that the present position of the country demands that. What are you going to put in its place. It is a very serious matter, and it becomes a matter requiring grave consideration that, where in any industry these high wages are earned for a short period of work, you are still going to continue benefit for that week. The House never intended that on the Second Reading, whatever may have happened in Committee. It was not the intention of the Government when the Bill was introduced. I shall listen to what the representatives of the Government have to say before I decide into which Lobby I shall go.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
When the Bill was going through its Second Reading, the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) called attention to the 1316 fact that, in his opinion, the wording of some parts of it was such as to bring into its purview classes different from and in addition to those we said we intended to cover in the Bill. In the Second Reading Debate I told the House, on behalf of the Government quite straightforwardly, that the wording would be carefully examined and that, if it were found that classes were covered which it was not intended to cover, steps would be taken to alter the wording of the Bill in order to make it perfectly plain that the four classes of which we spoke were the only classes we intended to cover in the Bill. When the Bill was going through Committee, there were criticisms from all parts of the Committee and fears that the drafting was still of such a character as to make it possible if not probable that people whom we never intended to touch, would be brought within the Clauses of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Minister gave a very definite promise that before the Report stage she would draft words which would carry out the intention of the House, which was that the ordinary unemployed person working for normal wages—either short time or wholly unemployed—would not be interfered with, and that the only person to be interfered with would be the person who systematically worked short time in a concentrated way for high wages that were higher than the normal wages, and that the wording would be found to put that definitely into the Bill. This wording does meet the contention which was raised in Committee, and implements the promise made by myself on Second Reading, by the Dominion Secretary, and over and over again by the Minister.
What does this Clause say? It says in effect that there shall be no interference with any person's benefit unless that person is habitually working short time to begin with, so that the miner and the textile worker who work short time here and there and who, when they do work, work at the normal wages of their trade, the building trade worker who works short time at the normal wages of his trade—all these will never be touched, because they are not working systematic short time at a high rate of wages which gives them more than an average rate of wages for a week's work for the short time they work. I claim 1317 that our wording deliberately and expressly excludes all those genuine unemployed workers for whom so much justified apprehension was expressed on Second Reading and in Committee by Members in all parts of the House beginning with the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and ending with the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The intention of the House as a whole was that it was keenly anxious to find a way of not interfering with the genuinely unemployed worker, whether unemployed or on short time, if he was getting the ordinary wages of his trade for the time he works.
Let us see what are the difficulties in the way. If you begin to try to tackle the man who is working for these abnormal wages at the wages end, you find yourself immediately in this difficulty, that you have to ask anybody who comes for benefit, "What did you earn last week?" Unless you ask every person, you cannot track the person you want. If you Start at the wages end, obviously the Department will be swollen to an enormous extent, and the probability is that the extra Departmental staff will cost more than any savings you could hope for. Let me repeat that neither the Minister nor the Government have ever taken any responsibility for any assumed sum of savings that can come from these Measures. We do not know, and nobody knows. But everybody is aware that there are cases which 99 per cent. of the people of this country believe ought not to be getting insurance pay. We say we are going to make an effort to weed out, if we can, those cases from the cases of the genuine unemployed men or women whose benefit we do not intend to touch. The persons who are getting benefit, when people think they ought not to have that benefit, are doing more harm to the unemployment insurance scheme, and in the future may do more harm to the unemployed workers, than would be done if we cleared out some of what I, at any rate, consider to be the undesirables—undesirables in the sense that they are undesirable on the unemployment pay roll.
Having these problems and finding that it was impossible to tackle them from the wages end, we had to find a way of discovering the people who were getting benefits which they ought not to have, 1318 and how, so to speak, to catch them in the net. First, we say that there should be a period in which short time has been worked which will be sufficient to make it evident that the short time is systematic. That is number one. Then, in the second place, we say that the wages earned must be so markedly above the ordinary wages for that class of work as to put the people earning them in a special category altogether. First, it must be systematic short time—
§ Mr. SHAW
I would rather the hon. Member allowed me to proceed. I am trying to state the case as clearly and distinctly as I can, and then the House can decide on the merits of the case. Let me try to summarise what I have been saying. First, in order that we shall not touch the genuine unemployed man or woman who happens to be working short time, there has to be a sufficient length of time to show that the short time is systematic. Secondly, in order to avoid touching the man or woman like the miner, the steel-worker, or the textile worker, who is working short time at the normal wages, and who must not be touched or interfered with in any way, we say that the wages earned must be above the normal week's wages in that trade. Having wiped out the categories to which I have referred, there only remains the category of people who are, systematically, working short time in an intensive way and making in that short time as much as or more than a full week's wages, for the same type of work, earned by a person working in the ordinary way. Like has to be compared with like. An hon. Member has mentioned coal-trimmers. I think that we can compare like with like in the case of the coal-trimmers. If we cannot in one district exactly compare like with like, it is possible to find the normal rate paid for the normal work, apply the normal number of working hours and find the normal wages for that trade in that district. I do not think, myself, that there is much difficulty in meeting that case.
That is the Government's position. First, there is a frank and full acknowledgment that no genuine unemployed worker's benefits shall be tampered with 1319 simply because that worker happens to be one of the better-paid workers. Secondly, he shall not be considered to be a short-time worker until he has worked habitual short time for a length of time which proves that it is no mere trade matter, which is, as it were, here to-day and gone to-morrow, but is continuous over a period of time, and thirdly the wages must be of an abnormal character. That is what we have tried to do. We have gone further and have said this: that there shall be no interference with any benefit whatever until the wages for the short time are more than the normal full week's wages for that work. Then, we say is the time to come in, as regards benefit for a worker who is getting more for a part-time week than he would have got if he were working the whole time. Is there anything wrong about that? Assume that I am a carder and that my ordinary normal wage is £3 15s. a week. I am systematically working short time. My benefit cannot be touched at all, if the sum I am drawing in wages and benefit is less than £3 15s. a week. But this Clause says that when the wages get beyond £3 15s., with benefit, then the benefit can be worked down to what the worker would have had if he were working a week in the ordinary normal way.
I am the last in the world to minimise the difficulties of drafting a Clause of this kind. I made an appeal with all the strength of which I was capable during the Second Reading Debate that the Government should be given power to deal with this matter. I called attention to the fact that on many occasions we had found forms of words which appeared to be absolutely watertight; we had put them into Statutes, and we immediately found that the very words which we thought most watertight, proved to be very leaky indeed. We deliberately asked for elasticity in the matter of these exclusions in order that we might correct any risk that this would be applied in a way in which nobody ever intended that it should be applied. Let me say on this point as to the necessity for more elasticity, that this is an experiment and let me call attention to the experience which we have had in previous cases with certain words. Is there anyone, out of Bedlam, who would have thought 1320 there would be any difficulty with words such as "not genuinely seeking work"? Could anybody have dreamt that those words could have been twisted into meaning anything except that if a person was seeking work that person was entitled to benefit. Yet the decisions given under these words were of such a character as to cause the House almost in its entirety to rise against them and insist upon them being struck out.
I never dreamt, and I do not think that anybody in the House dreamt, that it was possible to come to conclusions under those words such as were reached. This elasticity will give the Minister power, if a regulation is not applied in the spirit intended, to redress the matter and I appeal to the House most strongly on this ground—that this experiment, itself, will probably form a very valuable foundation for any alteration, any redrafting, any remodelling of the law with regard to unemployment insurance. It is essential, I think, that we should have a breathing spell in which we can with the full knowledge of the House—that is an essential point—be able to conduct these experiments because I believe that out of them we shall come to methods and forms which will safeguard us against many of the things that have gone on in the past. Finally, may I repeat, that systematic habitual short-time is the first preliminary, abnormal wages is the second, and the third is that there should be no interference at all with the benefits of the ordinary unemployed person and no reduction of benefit so long as the person entitled to the benefit is not getting more than the normal week's wages for the trade in which he is employed. I hope that now we may come to a decision upon this Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I desire to elicit some further information in regard to this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) examined the position very closely, and I wish to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that in his Second Reading speech he said that there were men earning £5 or £6 a week who were securing benefit. He also said that he had cases of persons who, for 17 weeks, were earning £5 a week and for 10 weeks earning £4 a week and so on, and he said that those people ought not to be receiving benefit. The 1321 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Shaw) in reply to that speech said that he agreed, substantially, that such persons ought not to be getting benefit. May I point out that those people earning £10 or £8 or £7 or £6 or £5 a week can now get benefit. It is said that they cannot get benefit but I will prove that they can get benefit. Supposing a man who earns, in six normal days, £10 a week, suddenly finds himself earning £8 in three days. That man's earnings of £8, plus his benefit, come to less than £10 and so he must get benefit, according to this definition. I ask anybody to deny that that is the ease. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall talked about people earning £7 or £10 in three days.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I never mentioned £10. I did give the earnings of a man for 17 weeks, and it was only that case to which I referred, as being rather typical of a large number of other cases.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, but supposing that the man has worked three days a week for 17 weeks, and has earned on an average £7 or £8 a week—fix whatever sum you like—for the 17 weeks. It is not unreasonable to assume that that man in six days would earn £10. He actually earns £8 in three days and £8 plus his unemployment benefit is less than £10, and so he gets unemployment benefit.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
Would it not depend upon how the reckoning was made? It is not made clear whether the normal wage is to be reckoned by the week, the day or the hour.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Amendment says the "normal earnings for a week" and I take the normal week's wages and I say that that man normally would earn £10 a week. I challenge any hon. Member on the point. If his normal wages are £10 and he earns £8 in three days and if the £8, plus benefit, comes to less than £10, then he gets benefit. I was asked would I defend giving benefit to a man earning £8 a week. I reply that that man is getting benefit now and I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to deny it if they can. He is getting benefit now and he is going to get benefit under' this Amendment, but the joke, is that, under this Amendment, people with £2 a week can be denied benefit. I put 1322 the case of a miner whose normal wage is £2 a week. He gets three days' wages. His benefit for three days would be 16s. Take 16s. from £2; that leaves 24s. It he earns 24s. in three days, he gets no benefit.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Take the case of the miner, and assume that he earns £2 a week. That is his normal week's earnings. Suppose he earns 30s. in three days; he is entitled to 16s. unemployment benefit. Therefore he gets £2 6s. If his normal wage is £2, he can get no benefit. The right hon. Gentleman says no. He says that it is earnings plus unemployment benefit—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I tried to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask him whether "normal week's earnings" includes benefit or not, and he says it includes it. This is the position in which you are going to be in regard to men who work three days a week and who earn a normal wage in three days. I will assume that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong, though I think that he is right, because be knows something about Unemployment Insurance, and I think he was right when he said that it includes benefit. Take the case of the miner who earns £2; that is his normal earnings in three days. Though he is living at a shocking rate of pay he is deprived of benefit. A man with £7 is going to get benefit if it is less than his normal wages. Take the class of cases of men who habitually work three or four days a week, such as the ship repairers in the shipbuilding yards. They habitually work for less than a full week. What constitutes "habitual" in law? In my view, a man who has been a ship repairer all his life and habitually works three days a week, is a habitual worker in the eyes of the law. He is a habitual short-time worker; he has done it all his life, but that man will be definitely cut out of benefit because he is a habitual short-time worker. It may be said that that 1323 is how the umpire would decide it; but I know the umpire and I have given this considerable study. What will happen is this. The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) and all who come in contact with ship repairers know it. I have worked at it myself. I have worked on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday, earning £10, but then I would not work for months. I was a habitual short-time worker, and I could not get unemployment benefit, although my wages for a long period were very low. If a man is a habitual short-time worker, and has followed it all his life, he should get benefit.
It is said in reply to this criticism that this is not an equalisation of wages Bill, but a Bill to abolish anomalies and to wipe out differentiations. Here, however, you are going to create greater differentiations, and the Labour party is now saying that we are to punish the miner and refuse benefit to him because world conditions have lowered his wages; yet they are going to grant another man benefit because world conditions operate in his favour. The reason why the miner's wage is low and the other man's wage is high, is not because one has a greater need than the other, but because they are faced with great economic forces; and the Labour party is now Baying that the people who through economic forces are compelled to work for low wages must be punished by having no benefit, while in other cases where they have been able to enforce high wages, they are to get it.
We have been subject to a certain amount of criticism. I am the last man to complain of criticism, although I felt keenly one remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, when he asked if I were a member of a trade union. That was a fearful thing to say, because I joined my union in the early days, and it is well known that I am a member. The other thing about megalomania I give to him as a present. The Trades Union Congress and the Labour party have issued notes in which they say that it is true that certain short-time workers can earn in three days a sum equal to the normal wage, and that they should not get benefit. Here you are giving them benefit. Last 1324 Sunday they were not good enough to get it; to-day they are good enough. In this House minorities will be told that they must not fight, but must carry on their discussions in the confines of a room upstairs. If ever there was justification for fighting, it is here, because but for the publicity of our fight, no concession would have been made. The fight was here in the House of Commons, and a big concession has been won. I welcome it, although I wish that we had been given more.
I put this last point to the right hon. Gentleman. Six weeks is to be taken as the normal time. In many callings men work for six different employers very often. A coal trimmer might go to six different stevedores. I have known a coal trimmer work in six weeks for 14 different employers. If a man disputes that he is getting more than his normal earnings, and is asked for proof, the only proof is in the books of the various firms for which he has worked. In such a case as I have mentioned you would have to search through the books of 14 different firms, and bring it up to the court of referees, and God knows when the man would get benefit. In Income Tax procedure, we know that certain things become so impossible to calculate and to measure that the Income Tax people say that administratively it is so costly as not to make it worth while. Whatever may have been said of it before, this provision is now extended so much that it has become administratively stupid.
I am one of those who believe that the managers of Employment Exchanges should be kept out of the firing line as much as possible. They have a very rotten job. I almost live at the Exchange when I am at home, and I never go there without feeling a bit ashamed of myself—the way in which the managers are badgered between me and the unemployed and the higher-up officials. We ought to try to make the administration simple, so that it can be easily understood by applicants. What are we doing now? Every time there is a wage dispute the officials will be put right into the firing line. The new administration will be costly and irksome, and will create ill feeling. A man with £2 a week will be refused benefit, and next door to him will be a man earning much more who will get benefit.
1325 It is said that we need different regulations for different districts. In my Division we need a different regulation for every family! I represent a good number of dockers, some shipbuilders and some engineers. An engineer's normal wage may be £2 10s. He is cut out when he earns over £2 10s. Above him, in the same tenement building, may live a docker who earns £5, but because his normal wage is £8 he will get benefit, whereas the poor devil down the stair is refused benefit because he has earned his normal wage of £2 10s. And we say this Measure is wiping out anomalies! It is nonsense! I pay the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) this compliment. He has a wonderful knowledge of human psychology, which has carried him through times without number. I wish he would apply it here. It is wanted! We have now conceded so much that there are no savings to be made; administratively the thing is almost impossible to work; and for the sake of everybody concerned and for the credit of the great movement to which he and I belong, and which is greater than any individual, we ought to drop this paragraph (a).
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) told us that he was welcoming a concession, but I do not think anybody would have guessed it. I rather thought he was trying to show that no good thing could come out of Preston. Would not some of his misgivings be removed if he considered this Measure as not laying down hard-and-fast regulations whereby A and B will be definitely and by this Measure excluded from benefit, but as laying down certain limits within which the Minister may issue regulations? In justice to the Minister and in justice to his own Front Bench he ought to assume that the regulations will not be made without regard to common sense. What is being done in this Amendment is to narrow the limits within which the regulations can be made, and for that reason I welcome it. Hitherto, I have taken no part at all in the discussion of this Bill, and I had not intended to do so now, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) has intervened to express his opinion I felt it my bounden duty to indicate mine. I 1326 have felt the whole way through that the attack that can be made on this Bill, the attack made by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite and the attack made from these benches by the hon. Member for one of the divisions Newcastle on the Second Reading, is that as an amomalies Bill it is not dealing with all the anomalies but leaving a Jot out. At any rate let us be glad of this, that when it was found that the Bill would create a host of new anomalies, such as would have arisen if paragraph (a) had not been unaltered, the Government have taken steps to introduce an Amendment.
It is said that by this Amendment we shall cut down the number of people dealt with to such a small number that it will be negligible. Personally, I never thought the numbers affected by the Bill would be very large. I have heard much talk about striking cases, and one knows that they exist, but I have never taken them as being typical of a very large number of cases, only I believed that it was necessary to take action, in order to save the unemployment insurance system from continual misrepresentation. In districts where there are not many unemployed misapprehensions are easily spread, and a great deal can be made of individual cases. Let them be dealt with by all means, but do not let the Government be stampeded by the unpopularity created by these cases into including within the ambit of the Bill a whole host of cases they never meant to deal with. I welcome the Amendment as a sign that the Government are not going to be stampeded, but are ready to give careful consideration to every word of the Bill even at this late hour, and I hope the Minister will show a similar spirit when dealing with the wording of the regulations she has to issue. I heartily welcome this Amendment. It is the first time I have spoken on the Bill, but I felt it to be necessary to say so much.
§ Mr. THOMAS rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put accordingly, and negatived.1327
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and other hon. Members, which proposes to leave out paragraph (b), was very fully discussed on the Committee stage. I understand there are certain hon. Members who attach a good deal of importance to it. If there is only a very short discussion on it, I have no objection to calling it. The discussion on this Amendment might be combined with the discussion on the Amendment to leave out paragraph (c), on the understanding that a Division would then be taken about paragraph (c) without further discussion.
§ Mr. BECKETT
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, to leave out paragraph (b).
I gladly accept your suggestion, Sir, that the discussion of this Amendment should be as brief as possible, but, if I may be allowed to say so, I think your statement that there was considerable discussion upon it on the Committee stage is not quite correct. I would also like to inform you and the House that that discussion did not come from the Government Bench. The Minister replied replied to myself, the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) and other friends of mine in a speech occupying something less than 12 lines of the OFFICIAL REPORT. The only reason which the right hon. Lady could give for refusing to accept the Amendment was that she said the paragraph was part of a definite agreement. She did not say with whom, and I do not believe it could possibly have been the Trades Union Congress to whom she was alluding. I am hoping that more consideration will be given to our Amendment to-day, because although when we started this Debate we were a very small group on these benches, we are rapidly getting adherents from all sections. The Attorney-General, the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for the Dominions have all qualified to be reported to the disciplinary committee of the party for the things they have said about this Bill—only they said them about a a fortnight after we did. It is on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT that they have made statements as to the 1328 things this Bill was going to do such as my hon. Friends on these benches would not have dared to make. Paragraph (b) is one which we regard with the greatest apprehension. We consider that the dangers under it are just as great as were those under the paragraph which has just been amended by the Minister, and while the dangers in paragraph (a) affected only large bodies of organised workers, who have many capable spokesmen in this House, those affected under (b) are not people who have that kind of representation here.
From personal experience I am concerned about shop assistants. What is the position of the shop assistant in these days? There are many thousands whose employment is becoming confined, practically, to a short period at Christmas, the first three weeks of the big sales, and perhaps a week before each of the Bank Holidays. For the rest of the time they are plodding round the big shopping districts on that heart-breaking job of asking to see the "engager," being told there is no work for them, and going plodding away again. Is that a seasonal occupation? I feel convinced that the right hon. Lady has not so far forgotten her connection with the retail trade that she would claim for a moment that these people should not get benefit. But the longer we have discussed this Bill the more we have discovered that however benevolent are the intentions of the Minister of Labour—and I do not doubt them—the draftsmen of her Department seem quite incapable of getting them into regulations which will mean only what she wants and nothing more. I think she would not dream of depriving these thousands of poor people out of benefit, but whatever way we try to read paragraph (b) I cannot see how it can be construed by any Court or any Umpire as not meaning that people in those occupations will have to be deprived of benefit.
It is a pity that we have come to the Report stage before the Government are prepared to admit the loose and casual way in which the Bill has been drafted, and that we have to strain your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, at this late hour, in order to try to get an answer to our points. My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough East (Miss Wilkinson) was much concerned during the Committee 1329 stage with dressmakers, milliners' assistants, etc., who are members of the union which she represents. After the right hon. Lady had made her Second Reading speech, in which she alluded to shop assistants in a rather slighting way—
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BECKETT
The right hon. Lady was quoting the case of workers with whom the Bill was intended to deal—I have not her exact words here, but I remember their purport very well indeed, for they made a great impression on me. Her words were that there were many shop assistants who were workers who went in part time, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) challenged her on that. I went out and got on the telephone to the only three recognised trade unions representing retail workers of which I knew. The responsible officials of each of those three unions told me that they did not know of a single case of that kind in the whole of their experience. They were officials of the Shop Assistants' Union which is represented by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Mr. Hoffman); officials of the union represented by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough East (Miss Wilkinson); and another. They said what I, from my experience, knew to be true, that wages for that kind of work were so ridiculously low that it would be impossible for people to live on them, even if they got benefit. The only object of a loosely drafted paragraph like this would be if the House had any suspicion that there was grave abuse in industries of this kind—in building, in the painting trade, in dressmaking, and in the fishing industry, as well as in many other seasonal industries. I will not ask the House to believe me when I say that if there are any cases of abuse in this type of industry, they are very few. The people are not of the type to do that, and are not in a position to carry through such abuses. I should like, however, to quote the right hon. Lady herself in defence of my suggestion. When she was speaking on the Second Reading of the Unemployment Insurance Bill, in 1927, 1330 she mentioned the great campaign that was going on. It was she said,declaring that the people of this country were defrauding the Unemployment Insurance Fund, declaring that they were wasters and wastrels, and workshys, that there was work to he found and they would not take it, and that they were drawing these great sums of money undeservedly. What was the result? We raked the country to get some evidence brought before the Committee"—that was the Blanesburgh Committee—to justify that statement, and we could not get it. Even the Charity Organisation Society had to say that they regretted that they could not find the evidence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 10th November, 1927; col. 420, Vol. 210.]I quote that speech of the right hon. Lady in 1927 because I feel that the only justification for a loosely worded paragraph such as this would be if she herself suspected, and could bring to the House, evidence that we ought to consider that there were a large proportion of workshy people. She has said that that is not true. I believe that the experience of the majority of hon. Members of the House is that it is not true. Therefore, after the way in which the very recent converts to the point of view of the Independent Labour party have denounced the Minister's wording of Clause 1, I hope that we shall get a similar concession on Clause 2. I recognise that the right hon. Lady has had a very difficult task. She has had to try to induce hon. Members behind her to believe that this will not do anything and to persuade hon. Gentlemen opposite that it will do something. We have had to watch that, by accident, it did not do something, just as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) has sat silent in the hope that the Bill would do something towards the purposes which he has in mind. I think that we won and the right hon. Gentleman lost on this first paragraph, and I hope the right hon. Lady will meet us again on paragraph (b) and give us a more, closely worded definition which cannot be used in anything like such a vague way, so that the right hon. Gentleman's purpose may be again defeated and the unemployed in these somewhat unorganised trades shall not run any risk of unfair treatment by the Advisory Committee that will be set up.
§ Mr. KINLEY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I want to call the attention of the House to this Amendment, the discussion on which I understand will cover paragraphs (b) and (c) for the purpose of saving the time of the House. I am particularly interested in the Amendment because while it is true that the Amendments which have been carried to paragraph (a) have revealed the danger of the threats levelled against a very large section of the working class community, this paragraph with which we are now dealing affects a very large number of my own constituents who are representative of a large percentage of the working class population in all the ports of the Kingdom. May I direct attention, first, to the question of the seasonal worker? It is now proposed that while the seasonal worker is still to be compelled, under the old law, to contribute at the full rate on every occasion of employment, there should be brought into existence an entirely new machine—the Advisory Committee—whose function will be to see that those individuals shall not obtain what they have hitherto been said to be entitled to have.
I want to know from the Minister of Labour whether she will now say that, so far as these seasonal workers are concerned, there is any need whatever of a new machine to enable her or anyone else to deprive them of benefit to which they have been entitled. I have fought case after case for seasonal workers who have been deprived of unemployment benefit, not because they had not the requisite number of stamps or had failed to meet any of the qualifications which already existed, but because there were still certain disqualifications in the existing legislation which enabled the Employment Exchange, the court of referees and the umpire to turn them down because they were seasonal workers. I have to admit that so far, during the two years I have been a Member of the House, on no occasion can I recall that I have been successful in my efforts to secure payment of benefit to those seasonal workers in my own constituency who have been deprived of it under the existing Act.
On what ground, therefore, can the Government justify asking the House to 1332 give additional powers to deal with these persons who, under present legislation, are so regularly and effectively deprived of the benefit to which they imagined they were entitled when they were compelled to become insured persons? I am bearing in mind, as far as my own area is concerned—I know that my experience can be borne out by others who represent still larger areas—quite a number of circumstances that will all come together if this Bill should become an Act and come into operation. I can see, in my own constituency, hundreds of houses which will be affected both by paragraphs (b) and (c). For instance, there is the two-day a week man, the docker with a trade union—the trade union which appears to be agreeing to this, and who appears to have been consulted. In the Merseyside area for a period of years now it has worked out, on a yearly analysis, that the average working time of a docker is two days a a week. Under paragraph (c), as I read it, every one of those dockers will be in danger of coming out of his benefit. The docker is normally required for only two days in a week. Another section of the community, it is true, also works two days a week, because they only want to work for two days; they are to be deprived of all hope of getting benefit, or the conditions of their receiving benefite and the amount to be received are to be curtailed and controlled by the regulations which are to be set up. So far, however, as the others are concerned—my dockers and those who go down to the stand twice and three times every day, who do want work and are normally employed for only two days a week because that is all the work available—they, willy-nilly, are going to be brought within the ambit of paragraph (c). Take the docker in those circumstances who can get only two days' work a week, who is brought under this paragraph, and is subjected, because he is only getting two days' work a week, to special regulations in regard to his benefit. His benefit will be reduced. In the same home there is a married woman who is a seasonal worker because when, with her husband habitually employed for only two days a week she discovered that it was utterly impossible for her to maintain the home on his wages, she realised that it was absolutely necessary for her, having a trade at her fingers' ends, to turn out to 1333 work. She had no alternative but to seek what work she could get in seasonal occupation which was offered in a jam factory three or four miles away from her home. There are hundreds of married women, wives of dockers getting only two or less than, two days' work a week, who go out regularly whenever they can get employment at one particular jam factory not very far away from Bootle. They become insured persons engaged in seasonal occupations and, while the husband may be deprived of benefit under paragraph (c), the wife is to be dealt with under paragraph (b) and will also be deprived of benefit.
I suggest to the Minister that the desire for economy may be great and the desire to remove anomalies may be great, but in any hunting after the abolition of anomalies nothing ought to be done that can possible mean the infliction of hardships on the married woman who is a seasonal worker because her husband is not earning enough to keep the home, The responsibility for any Measure that would inflict this two-fold hardship on one home ought never to lie at the door of a Labour Minister. I ask the House to protect itself and its self-respect, and to reject both paragraph (b) and paragraph (c).
May I further suggest that there must be whole classes of workers who will be brought within these paragraphs whose cases have not yet been brought to the notice of the Minister? I will give her more. Coming from a seaport, one naturally has to do not only with dockers, but with the men who go down to the sea in ships—when they can. If the Minister herself cares to make inquiries at our ports, she will discover, such has been the change that has taken place in those ports during the last 10 years, that whole hosts of seamen of every description, who formerly were regular seafarers, are now either short-time workers or seasonal workers. I have men in my area, and hon. Members who represent other ports have similar men in their areas, who have been going to sea for a considerable period of years but who have now been laid off because their ships have been held up. Because of their good record, they have usually been given the chance of further employment. The only chance that they can get now is when the cruises are on, when, during the 1334 cruising season, liners are fitted up to take millionaires and other people for the Mediterranean cruise. That is the only period of the year during which these people can get employment. It is seasonal employment. They are going to be dealt with under this paragraph. I want to know why.
Why also are married women seasonal workers to be penalised? Why are their husbands, many of whom are dockers, getting only two days' work a week because the trade is bad in the port, to be penalised? They habitually do only two days' work a week. Is it in the interests of economy that they are to be deprived of something that they are getting now? Is it suggested that the Insurance Fund was established, not for the purpose of providing unemployment benefit for those who are unemployed, hut as a means of providing unemployment benefit for those who do not require it because they are not unemployed? Is it suggested that, while the rate of contribution is to be unchanged, the more unfortunate and helpless sections are to be penalised? Are they to have set up for them a separate machinery, designed for the sole purpose of seeing that, whatever they have been able to get hitherto, they are to get less of it in the future? That their contributions are to be the same, but they are to take a good deal less? I do not want my Government to make itself responsible for that, and I can assure my Government that it will get no help from me in that process, now or at any other time.
There is another point that might be borne in mind. We have decided this afternoon that the short-time worker is to be taken out of the scope of the Bill. The short-time worker may now breathe freely, but the two-days-a-week man may not. We have saved the position of the man who habitually works three days a week, but we are still going to deal with the man who habitually works two days a week. Suppose that man suggests to his employer that he will do another day's work for nothing, and that, while he is employed and paid for two days a week, he is quite prepared to do a third day each week voluntarily. By doing that day's work each week for nothing, he can contract out under paragraph (a). He ceases to be a two-days-a-week man and becomes a short-time worker and so 1335 can escape. That is a point that the Minister might bear in mind. In other words, while this machinery is being evolved there has been set up under paragraph (a) in its amended form, a loophole through which, if they are only keen and cute enough, the two-days-a-week man and woman can escape, if they are prepared further to lower the standard of themselves and their colleagues by doing three days a week instead of two. I appeal to the Minister to delete both these paragraphs. Failing that, I appeal to the House to protect all these people of whom I have spoken, and to register a protest against the threat that is now levelled against them.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
It is quite clear from the discussion that has taken place that we have just listened to a veritable travesty of what would be the effect of the operation of the Clause. The reason is very clearly laid down in the report of the Royal Commission, why the particular headings and the particular categories of cases are given. If a claimant falls into one of the categories, he cannot possibly be dealt with at the same time as being in another category. That cannot possibly happen. In connection with the general principle of the seasonal worker and the intermittent worker, the Clause will deal specifically with certain categories of cases which are known. We do not know the extent of them, we only know that we have had typical cases. Seasonal workers are those in trades where the season is definitely limited by date, from a certain period to a certain period, in respect of a class of work which cannot happen at any other time of the year because it is directly connected with the season. It is seasonal work, and that is the only class of seasonal work that we are attempting to deal with in paragraph (b).
There is another class of seasonal worker where there is a busy season alternating with a slack season, which will not come under the Clause at all. The report specifically excludes them. On page 44 it says:The term 'seasonal workers' is used to cover two different classes of case—(1) where there is a busy season alternating with a slack season during which, nevertheless, some employment in the trade is available, and (2), where the work is of a wholly 1336 seasonal character, beginning and ending on some more or less definite date.….The first category does not come under the Bill at all, and includes the building trade, clothing trade workers and others. All the arguments addressed to those classes of case fall to the ground. The division is quite clear. The class of intermittent workers is one of those points on which I have to be especially careful, because it is a much more difficult thing to define. Cases are there, and are clearly defined in the sense that one knows that certain categories are affected when nobody thinks they are affected. It is workers of that class who, for their personal reasons, or because, as in the case of printers, it is the custom of the trade, habitually and regularly only work two days a week.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Under the Bill, the class of intermittent workers is confined to those who work for not more than two days a week, but now power is being taken to deal with those who work three days a week as short-time workers. If a person is long enough at intermittent work, he is cut out because he comes under the regulations, but, if the period of work is extended by another day, and he becomes a short-time worker, he is then guaranteed benefit. What is now being done is to provide an inducement to the man working two days a week to work another day for nothing in order to get the benefit of the longer period.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
The situation is that there is a category of persons who are what we call week-enders, because there is no opportunity for them to do that work on three days a week, nor do they wish to do any other work in another category of trade. These are not imaginary cases, but real cases which I have had to handle myself, and in which there is no ambiguity. They are due to the growing practice in the distributive trades of employing persons on the two busy days, Friday and Saturday, and sometimes only on Friday afternoon and Saturday, and for that work persons are quite definitely selected who do not want to work during any other part of the week. I say that they are not in the employment field for the other four days, and are not entitled to benefit. The position is perfectly clear. That is the class of case with which I mean to deal, and which is intended to be dealt with under 1337 the second of the two paragraphs, and I could not possibly agree to withdraw-either of the two paragraphs.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I wish to put to the Minister the point which was put by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). Of course there is a certain number of people in week-end occupations, but it does not follow that people who are included in these week-end occupations on Friday and Saturday could not, if need be, work on some other day as well.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Is it not possible for people who work just for a week-end, to make an arrangement with their employers to get themselves transferred from the one category to the other? It would involve their working one extra day a week, and is no more impossible than the arrangement for organized short time in the cotton trade which already exists.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
If that were so, I should say that it was a collusion between the employer and the worker to get round the Act, and we should have to try again to deal with it in some other way. But I do not propose to assume that that will be the case; I propose to assume that the class of people with whom I am dealing is a class of people who are satisfied with working two days a week at the end of the week, and who, owing to an accident in the drafting of the Act, have been enabled to get benefit. I believe that the majority of them, when they know that it is not intended that they should draw benefit, will cease to claim it.
§ Mr. KINLEY
In view of the fact that the Minister has on several occasions referred to the report of the Royal Commission, I should like to ask the right hon. Lady if she can point to any word in this Bill from beginning to end which declares that either the Minister or the Advisory Committee, now or in the future, must base their actions upon the findings of the Royal Commission. I suggest that the report of the Royal Commission is not in this Bill, nor can it govern the action of the Committee.
§ Mr. W. J. BROWN
The assumption which underlies the Minister's contribution to the discussion causes me a good deal of uneasiness. The assumption appears to be that it is quite certain that those who engage in seasonal occupations which would bring them under paragraph (d) of Sub-section (2), and those who engage in what are described as week-end occupations, limit themselves to occupations of that kind as a matter of voluntary choice.
§ Mr. BROWN
What I am concerned about is that the Bill is not limited to that. If it means what it says, it affects persons whose weekly employment is employment for portions of the year only, in occupations which are not of a seasonal nature, and the whole point is that it may not be the desire of the individual at all that his employment should be of a seasonal or week-end character. Let me give an example. I was brought up in a seaside town, namely, Margate, In that town, during the summer, there is abundance of employment, but during the winter months there is practically no employment at all, and I dare say I could find a dozen of my old school-mates now living in Margate who for several years past have only been able to find work during the summer months—that is to say, seasonal work. Those men would clearly come under the terms of paragraph (b) of Subsection (2). But I, and many other Members as well, know that, if they are only doing summer work, it is not because they want to limit themselves to that, but because they cannot get work in the winter months.
With regard to the week-enders, again, why is it assumed that the person who only works on a Saturday and Sunday does so purely as a matter of individual choice? The odds are probably 10 to one that it is a matter of necessity, but, whether it is a matter of necessity or not, both classes are covered by paragraph (c), and, with very great respect to the Minister, I do not think that she makes a good case when she says that it is only proposed to deal with cases where the limitation to seasonal or week-end occupation is voluntary. The plain fact is that you cannot tell by regulation whether it is voluntary or not, and, in 1339 order to cover a few bad cases, the prospect is that a very much wider area of perfectly genuine cases will suffer hardship. I want to put to the Minister this further point which troubles me very much. The Clause, as it was until today, dealt in paragraphs (a) and (c) of Sub-section (2), with two entirely different categories of people. In paragraph (a) there was no provision for short-time workers who had to be engaged more or less permanently on short time and to be in receipt of more than a certain amount of earnings. Paragraph (a), with which paragraph (c) could up to that point be contrasted, dealt withpersons who on any day within the period in respect of which benefit is payable or within any preceding period prescribed by the regulations receive any earnings or similar payments of such a kind, and of such substantial amount, as may be so prescribed.That paragraph has now gone, and a new paragraph (a) has been inserted, which seems to me entirely to overlap with paragraph (c) as it stands now. I will read the two paragraphs to illustrate what I am saying. The new paragraph (a) covers people whohabitually work for less than a full week, and by the practice of the trade in which they are employed nevertheless receive earnings or similar payments of an amount greater than the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district.Paragraph (c) coverspersons whose normal employment is employment in an occupation in which their services are not normally required for more than two days in the week or who owing to personal circumstances are not normally employed for more than two days in the week.Therefore, paragraph (a) now deals with people who are more or less regularly
§ engaged on short time, and so does paragraph (c). But there is a tremendous difference proposed between the treatment now to be given to one set under paragraph (a) and to another set under paragraph (c). In the one case, they had to be receiving an amount which was more than the amount normally earned in that trade for a full week's work, a very substantial safeguard upon which the Government are to be congratulated. But that safeguard does not apply to the people under (c). I suggest that they should delete paragraphs (b) and (c) altogether. Whatever dramatic cases may have been given of part-time workers under paragraph (a) drawing fabulous salaries and getting unemployment benefit on top, no such case has been adduced under paragraphs (b) and (c). The Minister may say that paragraph (a) was necessary in order to save the insurance scheme from the danger presented to it by scandalous and outrageous abuses, but there has been no such evidence as that on paragraphs (b) and (c). I suggest, therefore, that the right hon. Lady should accept the Amendments to delete paragraphs (b) and (c) altogether. Even if she cannot do that I urge her to give the same protection to people under paragraphs (b) and (c) as the Government have decided to give to people under paragraph (a) otherwise there is a glaring anomaly between the two categories of cases, which I do not believe she desires to see. I hope we shall have a further statement from the Government.
§ Question put "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 14.1341
|Division No. 445.]||AYES.||[8.38 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Birkett, W. Norman||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Daggar, George|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Bowen, J. W.||Dallas, George|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dalton, Hugh|
|Alpass, J. H.||Broad, Francis Alfred||Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bromley, J.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Brothers, M.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Arnott, John||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Dukes, C.|
|Ayles, Walter||Burgess, F. G.||Duncan, Charles|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Ede, James Chuter|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Cameron, A. G.||Edmunds, J. E.|
|Barr, James.||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Batey, Joseph||Church, Major A. G.||Egan, W. H.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Cluse, W. S.||Elmley, Viscount|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||England, Colonel A.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Compton, Joseph||Foot, Isaac|
|Benson, G.||Cowan, D. M.||Freeman, Peter|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Leonard, W.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Rowson, Guy|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Logan, David Gilbert||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Longbottom, A. W.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Gill, T. H.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Glassey, A. E.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Scott, James|
|Gossling, A. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Scurr, John|
|Gould, F.||McElwee, A.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McEntee, V. L.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||McKinlay, A.||Shield, George William|
|Gray, Milner||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Shinwell, E.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Manning, E. L.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Mansfield, W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||March, S.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Marcus, M.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Marley, J.||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Marshall, Fred||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Mathers, George||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Matters, L. W.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Middleton, G.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Millar, J. D.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mills, J. E.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Milner, Major J.||Sorensen, R.|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Montague, Frederick||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Sullivan, J.|
|Herriotts, J.||Morley, Ralph||Sutton, J. E.|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Tillett, Ben|
|Hollins, A.||Mort, D. L.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hopkin, Daniel||Muff, G.||Tout, W. J.|
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Muggeridge, H. T.||Townend, A. E.|
|Isaacs, George||Murnin, Hugh||Viant, S. P.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Naylor, T. E.||Walker, J.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Noel Baker, P. J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Paling, Wilfrid||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Palmer, E. T.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||West, F. R.|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Perry, S. F.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Lang, Gordon||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pole, Major D. G.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Potts, John S.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Law, Albert (Bolton)||Price, M. P.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Law, A. (Rossendale)||Quibell, D. J. K.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe).|
|Lawrence, Susan||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Raynes, W. R.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Lawson, John James||Richards, R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Leach, W.||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Ritson, J.||Mr. Thurtle and Mr. Charleton.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Stephen Campbell|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Kirkwood, D.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Wise. E. F.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Maxton, James|
|Buchanan, G.||Sandham, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Kinley and Mr. Beckett.|
§ Amendment proposed: In page 2, line 14, to leave out paragraph (c).—[Mr. Sandham.]1342
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 15.1343
|Division No. 446.]||AYES.||[8.47 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Angell, Sir Norman||Barr, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Arnott, John||Batey, Joseph|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Attlee, Clement Richard||Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Ayles, Walter||Bennett Sir E. N. (Cardiff Central)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Bennett, William (Battersea, South)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Barnes, Alfred John||Benson, G.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hopkin, Daniel||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Isaacs, George||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Potts, John S.|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, Llewellyn, F.||Price, M. P.|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Richards, R.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Ritson, J.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Lang, Gordon||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Rowson, Guy|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Compton, Joseph||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawrence, Susan||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Daggar, George||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Scott, James|
|Da[...]las, George||Lawson, John James||Scurr, John|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Leach, W.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Shield, George William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leonard, W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Dukes, C.||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shinwell, E.|
|Duncan, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Longbottom, A. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Longden, F.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Egan, W. H.||Lunn, William||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|England, Colonel A.||McElwee, A.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Foot, Isaac||McEntee, V. L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Freeman, Peter||McKinlay, A.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Sorensen, R.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Manning, E. L.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Mansfield, W.||Sullivan, J.|
|Gill, T. H.||March, S.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Gillett, George M.||Marcus, M.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Marley, J.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Marshall, Fred||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gould, F.||Mathers, George||Tillett, Ben|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Matters, L. W.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Middleton, G.||Tout, W. J.|
|Gray, Milner||Millar, J. D.||Townend, A. E.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Mills, J. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Milner, Major J.||Walker, J.|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Montague, Frederick||Wallace, H. W.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Morley, Ralph||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Welsh, James (Palsley)|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||West, F. R.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mort, D. L.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Haycock, A. W.||Muff, G.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Muggeridge, H. T.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Murnin, Hugh||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Noel Baker, P. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Herriotts, J.||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Paling, Wilfrid||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hollins, A.||Perry, S. F.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Thurtle.|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Kirkwood, D.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Wise, E. F.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Maxton, James|
|Buchanan, G.||Sandham, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Beckett and Mr. Kinley.|
Question, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
The next Amendment that I call stands in the name of the 1344 hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan)—in page 2, line 23, at the end to insert the words: 1345Provided that this class shall not include married women whose husbands are incapacitated from work or are unemployed and not in receipt of benefit, nor widows.
§ Miss RATHBONE
On a point of Order. Will you kindly tell me whether on this Amendment we shall be allowed to discuss the general question of the special regulations affecting married women? May I point out that the classes affected by paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) have been very fully discussed. They were also discussed on the Committee stage. The class of married women affected by paragraph (d) was discussed in Committee at 4.30 a.m., very much less fully than the other three classes. I am anxious to know whether we shall have an opportunity—since you have called this Amendment and not the Amendment to leave out paragraph (d)—of dealing with the class of married women affected by paragraph (d), or whether that is the only class dealt with in connection with these anomalies which is to be excluded from further discussion on the Report stage?
The only questions that we can discuss on the Report stage are the questions arising directly out of the Amendments called. I have called this Amendment, and we can only discuss the substance of the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that this class shall not include married women whose husbands are incapacitated from work or are unemployed and not in receipt of benefit, nor widows.I consider this the second best course. I should very much have preferred that the Committee had decided to delete Sub-section (2), because I believe that it will defeat its own objective. It will not exclude the women who, presumably, do not want to continue in work and it will endanger the benefit of many married women who have every intention of working, but who are not able to maintain their work. I will give one example as a preliminary explanation why we consider the House ought to accept this Amendment. Suppose that a married woman has every intention of continuing in work, but is engaged in a trade, factory or shop where automatically on marriage she is dismissed. 1346 It might be that she could search for months—it might well be that in the West of Scotland she could search for a year or for several years—without being able to find work. Under the wording of the original Clause these women would have no contributions subsequent to marriage and their benefit would be in great danger if not altogether put off. The Secretary of State for War in an earlier speech to-day said that no one expected that "not genuinely seeking work" would be interpreted in the harsh way that it has been interpreted. His comments on the way that phrase was used is the best recommendation to the House that in this new Bill we should make it impossible that there should be a similar distortion of the intentions of the committee.
I do not feel that the consultative committee to be set up is any guarantee, especially under a possible Conservative Minister of Labour, that we should have the wording of the Bill stretched in such a way as to show sympathy with working-class claimants. There is a very real and Very substantial danger that the wording of the Bill will stand for the maximum clemency that will be shown and that the working of the consultative committee in making recommendations will tend to tighten up the legislation and to endanger the claims of many women whose benefit it is not intended to endanger. Therefore, in bringing forward the Amendment we are asking the committee specifically to exclude certain women from the danger zone of doubt. Doubt and insecurity can cause as much trouble in working-class homes as definite injury. We believe the House could easily accept the Amendment. In so doing we should be excluding women who obviously ought to be judged on the same basis as single women and ought to be required to fulfil no special obligations, or to make any special contribution by virtue of being married. Women whose husbands are incapacitated from work are specifically excluded by the terms of our Amendment. As I understand it the belief of the House is that there is a temptation for a married woman whose husband is earning a regular wage to apply for benefit and to draw it, if she possibly can, without having any 1347 serious intention of working, and that the additional security given to her by virtue of her husband's income requires that we should enforce special regulations in order to see that the fund is in no way abused. In that ease, it means that in the case of a married woman whose husband is incapacitated from work, marriage is not an added security or an added advantage but, economically, marriage is an added responsibility and an additional proof that the woman must find work in order to keep the home going.
We ask that in a case where the husband is unable to bring any income into the household the married woman claimant to benefit, when she is having her claim judged, should have to satisfy the same conditions as a single woman and that she should be excluded from any additional regulations imposed on married women. The next class that we are seeking to exclude is that of married women whose husbands are unemployed. These women represent a very large and growing class of women who are not, like the women of Lancashire or Dundee, habitually engaged in work on marriage. These women in normal circumstances would be inside the home, but in industrial areas like Lanarkshire they find that where there is no work for the husband they in turn must go out and seek work. In those cases where the husband is unemployed and unable to find work and not in receipt of benefit, we think it only fair that there should be no additional handicap put on the woman where she has been in work, has become unemployed and is claiming benefit.
The third class is that of widows. I think we can take it for granted that widows will be free from any special regulations or examinations imposed on married women, but the Clause does not mention them, and some of ray hon. Friends are very anxious about this class of women. They have been included in the Amendment more for the purposes of getting an explanation, because I do not see how they can be directly involved. The other two classes, those whose husbands are incapacitated from work and those whose husbands are unemployed and not in the receipt of benefit, are two classes on whom this House has no right to impose 1348 additional restrictions or regulations. There are many other classes which might have been incorporated in an Amendment of this kind. We should have preferred if the Clause had been deleted altogether, but, since the House has not seen fit to do so, we are now seeking to safeguard this House from imposing regulations which, in spite of its best intentions and according to the strict wording of the Bill, might be interpreted in such a way as to cause unnecessary distress. I ask the House to accept this very modest and reasonable Amendment. It is not asking the House to do anything it does not want to do. It simply seeks to insert in black and white what I feel must be the desire of every Member.
§ Mr. SANDHAM
I beg to second the Amendment.
I regard the form of the Bill as an attack upon married women. There ought not to be this differentiation. Of course, I am expressing my own view in regard to the Bill itself. I am entirely opposed to it, and, consequently, have the profoundest prejudice against this particular Clause which deals with married women. Does the House realise to what extent this Bill differentiates between a married woman of the working class and a married woman who may emanate from the supposed intellectuals of society, where they are encouraged to run businesses—
I must guard the House against entering into a discussion of a general nature. This is an Amendment to exclude a certain section or class from the provisions of the Clause, and we must keep to the proposals of the Amendment.
§ Mr. SANDHAM
I am sorry; it was not my intention to pursue it. I was only illustrating what to my mind ought to be the policy of our party. At the same time we have to realise that these married women who are covered by this Amendment have been and are at the present time economic units, productive units, and we ought not to allow ourselves to cast them aside, as it were, simply because for the moment there is a demand for economy. I want to point out to the House, and to the supporters of this party in particular, that these women may remember legislation like 1349 this at the next election, and they will have a perfect right to remember it and to exercise their protest and take what action they may think fit. We have no right to suggest to these women that they should live upon their husbands or should be dependent in any sense upon their husbands. We ought to encourage them to feel that they have a right to independence because of the fact that they are married women, and because they have hitherto been contributors to productive work in the various industries of the country. It is for these and many other reasons that I desire to associate myself with the Amendment, which I hope will receive considerable support in the House.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Amendment which has been so ably moved by the hon. Lady for North Lanark (Miss Lee) is one which on the face of it would invite our sympathy, and I can assure the House that if the Amendment carried on the face of it the real position there would not be the slightest hesitation on the part of the Government in accepting it. But what is the position? In respect of these classes of women, the question is whether or not they remain in the insurable field. If they remain in the insurable field, then, of course, they do not need this particular and distinctive consideration, but if they leave the insurable field, then, much as we may individually sympathise with the proposal, they are in the same position as other women who are not at the present time in the insurable field, and who perhaps have never received unemployment benefit. We all know numbers of uninsured women whose husbands are incapacitated and the difficult times they have to face, and also those whose husbands are unemployed and not in receipt of benefit. We sympathise with them, but they do not receive unemployment benefit, and never have received it. The complaint has always been that in their case there is a differentiation between them and other married women who have been in, but have left, the insurable field, and much as we may sympathise with this class of women covered by the proposed Amendment the Government cannot accept the proposal, because if they are outside the insurable field then there Is no case for consideration more than there 1350 is in the case of other women who do not receive unemployment benefit. Therefore, the Government cannot make this discrimination, and we must reject the Amendment.
In moving this Amendment, I did not ask for any special consideration for this class of married women in addition to that given to single women. They would come under the ordinary regulations with any other women claiming benefit, but I do ask the Minister to consider this. He trusts the Advisory Committee under a Tory Ministry; I do not. I have only the wording in the Bill upon which to go, and if such, a committee was operating in these circumstances it would be quite within the letter of the law in disqualifying women in these categories, although they could satisfy the regulations.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I say respectfully that I think the reply we have received from the Parliamentary Secretary shows a real confusion of thought. What is the argument put forward? That the Ministry cannot accept this Amendment because they cannot discriminate in favour of any class of women who are not in the field of insurance. But the Amendment does not ask that they should do so. No one, however great her need and however great our sympathies for her, is entitled to benefit who is not in the insurable field. The whole point with respect to the married women of the Subsection to which this Amendment proposes a proviso, is that where there is something attaching to the condition of the married woman that makes it necessary to apply special regulations to her, they should be applied. What is that something? Is it not obvious that the theory on which paragraph (d) rests is that because married women normally are dependent on their husbands and have therefore no source of subsistence, the danger is greater in the case of married women than in the case of single women or married men or single men, that the married woman will not be in earnest in the search for work and will only pretend to search for work when she is really relying for subsistence on her husband.
The class of women whom this Amendment singles out is the class to whom that condition of normal dependency definitely does not apply. The condition 1351 of a woman whose husband is incapacitated or unemployed and not in receipt of benefit, or who is a widow, requires her to be placed in a separate category. The excuse in the case of the married woman with a husband working is that it is exceptional for her to be seeking work, and that therefore the danger of ungenuine claims has to be specially guarded against; but that risk does not apply to the women in the categories named in the Amendment, any more than it applies to a single man or a single woman. On the contrary, a woman who has a husband dependent on her has more reason for seeking work than the ordinary single woman who may quite well be dependent upon a father who is in work.
I suggest, therefore, that the Government might reconsider this Amendment, and consider whether they should not make some concession on this question of the married women. I assure them that there is a great feeling of alarm and resentment on behalf of the organised women all over the country—alarm which is to a certain extent disguised from this House by the fact that some of the natural spokesmen of these organised women are in a position where they feel that they cannot get up and speak frankly in opposition to their own Government. The case would have been very differently put in this House if we had had a Government of a different political complexion in power. Here is an opportunity for the Ministry to show that it is not making a scapegoat, as many of us seriously think is the case, of the married woman as a person against whom there is a considerable amount of popular prejudice, and who is therefore not in a good position to fight for herself. The Government would alleviate our fears if they would say that there is a class of women who can be taken out of paragraph (d) and that they are prepared to make that concession.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I want to add to what the last speaker has said. As a trade union official representing many thousands of organised women workers—my union has at least 40 per cent. of women in its ranks—I appeal to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary at least to consider this concession 1352 before the Third Reading. The position really is very serious. I do not think that the Government realise what a very strong feeling there is in the country about this Clause. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was difficult to take one section of married women out, and that if they were not in the insurance field it would not apply. I would remind him of the very wise words of the Secretary for War earlier to-day. In speaking of the "not genuinely seeking work" Clause, the right hon. Gentleman said that no one in their senses ever imagined that those words would be so twisted as in fact they were twisted. I am very much afraid that if this Advisory Committee gets to work, it will get to work with a certain selected number of bogies, and one of those bogies will be the married woman, and that it will become as easy to twist the Bill against married women as such as it was under the old Act to twist the "not genuinely seeking work" Clause.
I suggest that the Ministry would cut away a lot of the ground of feeling if they accepted the Amendment, against which no one can honestly make a case. The Parliamentary Secretary replied that if these women were in the insurance field, they would come under the normal operation of the Act. Then why mention married women in this Bill at all? The Ministry cannot have it both ways. Either they regard a married woman as an ordinary workman subject to the ordinary laws of insurance, or, if she is not in the insurance field, she is as much out of it and as much unlikely to get the benefit as any man or any single woman. I would have no objection whatever if she were treated in that way, to stand her corner like anyone else, even though she has disabilities that a single woman has not. But if you are going to put these disabilities on her as a married woman by paragraph (d), the Minister cannot turn round and say that the Government will not accept the Amendment because these women would have to be considered in the ordinary insurance field.
Logic does not seem to play any part in this Bill at all. I appreciate the view of the Government that, as practical politicians, what they have to do is to dodge a worked-up newspaper campaign in such a way as to keep as many 1353 people as possible under the Act. I see that point of view. But I also say that as practical politicians they had better carry on this patchwork of complications and at least see that they have a very strong sentimental case, to put it no higher, in giving to the married woman, who is in a much worse position than the single woman, this concession, and in saying that where the married woman has dependents upon her, these super-difficult regulations shall not apply. Let us put a screen round the married woman with dependents and take her away from this committee altogether. That is what we want to do. The result would be not that she would have any special privileges but that she would be protected from special disabilities.
I suggest to the Secretary of State for War, who has a very large number of women workers in his constituency, that if the committee gets to work it can play havoc in the textile trade, not only among the married women of Lancashire, but also of Yorkshire. Suppose that the women in these industries become most strongly organised in trade unions, it is not at all unlikely that they will make a very strong political retaliation if they are discriminated against in this way, and they will be entitled to do so. This will not cost the fund a very great deal, but it will at least achieve something in default of anything better. The best thing would be to drop paragraph (d) altogether, for there is no case for leaving it in or for taking the married woman away and separating her from the ordinary classes. I submit that the proviso moved by the hon. Lady the Member for North Lanark (Miss Lee) does at least take the women who need it most away from possible vindictiveness on the pact of the committee, of which we are all rather afraid, and protect her while she is earning a living for her incapacitated husband.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
I want to make a suggestion to the Minister of War which I hope he will accept. We do not want to divide the House on this Amendment unnecessarily. Our object is to try to get rid of the obvious injustice of treating women whose husbands are incapacitated from work or unemployed and not in receipt of benefit in exactly the same position as the married women whose husbands are earning a livelihood. The 1354 Parliamentary Secretary stated that he had every sympathy with the object of the Amendment and that if the words meant what they seem to mean upon their face the Government would be prepared to accept the Amendment. This Bill has now gone too far in this House for an Amendment drafted by the Government to meet the demand which we are putting forward being incorporated in it. I therefore ask the Government whether they will be prepared, when this Bill reaches another place, to introduce another Amendment which will, in their view, meet the point, of the claim we are advocating. If the Government could give a definite assurance of that nature, I think it would be unnecessary to press the Amendment to a division. The case for the Amendment is so obvious that I think it will be extraordinarily difficult for the Government or anyone else to justify its rejection.
I listened very carefully to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and I confess he convinced me of the strength of the Amendment. Single women are outside the scope of the Clause. It applies to married women. All we are asking is that where married women have husbands who are incapacitated from work and cannot maintain them or who have husbands who are actually out of a job and are not receiving benefit, and where the married women are not merely in the position of single women but are so far as bread winning is concerned, fulfilling the function of the married men, they shall not be excluded from benefit under the Clause. I suggest to the Secretary of State for War and to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs that there is no possible ground upon which this Amendment can be resisted. We hope they will at least meet us to the extent of saying that, if we are prepared to withdraw these particular words, they will introduce an Amendment in another place which will meet the effect of the words which we desire to insert.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I should like to support the view expressed by the hon. Member who has just spoken. In doing so, I am speaking solely for myself, but I have received so many representations on behalf of married women who feel that they are affected by paragraph (d) of this Sub-section that I venture to rein- 1355 force the appeal made from various quarters of the House that the Government should reconsider the position which they have taken up. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman who will reply that it would be a gracious act on the part of the Government to deal sympathetically with the position of the married woman. Married women protest that in this Bill there is an attack being made by the Labour Government upon their economic position such as has not been made against them for many a day. I presume that is not an aspersion which the Government would wish to have cast upon them. I do not suppose the Government mean to depress the economic position of the married woman. I assume that in the Government's favour.
I think it is generally admitted that the Government should deprive of benefit certain women who are not entitled to it and make such economies as they can, but the position of the married women is this, that they are for the first time being selected as a separate class because they are married. They point out with some justification that they were introduced into the insurance scheme, not as married women, but as workers. I suggest to the Minister of Labour, with great deference, that it is possible to find a form of words before this Bill leaves this House which will accomplish the object which all parties have in view and which yet will not cast this aspersion on married women.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I understand that in my absence the Clause has been very fully debated and very strong expressions of opinion have been made that this would be an additional safeguard for this small section of married women. I believe this section would be very small and would not be really affected by the Bill at all, but, if the House wishes to have the additional assurance which the acceptance of the Amendment will give, I am prepared to accept it.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 23, at the end, insert the words:
(3) The regulations made under this Section in relation to persons of the class specified in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (2) of this Section shall not operate so as to
reduce the amount of benefit otherwise payable to any person in respect of any week by more than the amount by which the aggregate of the earnings or similar payments received by him in that week and of the benefit aforesaid exceeds the normal earnings for a full week of persons following the same occupation in the same district."—[Miss Bondfield.]
§ The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper:
§ In page 2, line 29, leave out from the beginning, to the word "benefit," in line 33.—[Mr. Wise.]
§ In line 33, leave out the word "may," and insert instead thereof the word "shall."—[Mr. Beckett.]
§ In line 35, leave out the word "that," and insert instead thereof the word "any."—[Mr. Wise.]
§ In line 36, leave out from the word "regulations," to the word "be," in line 37.—[Mr. Stephen.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment which I call is that in the name of the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise), in page 2, line 29.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The last Amendment dealt with was that in the name of the Minister of Labour to line 23 and I am now calling upon the hon. Member to move the next Amendment on the Paper to line 29, which is the first of four Amendments dealing with Sub-section (4).
§ Mr. WISE
I beg to move, in page 2, line 29, to leave out from the beginning to the word "benefit," in line 33.
The purpose of this Amendment is to correct what I think is a drafting error in connection with Sub-section (4). This Sub-section is obviously necessary to tide over the period after these regulations come into force and before cases can be adjudicated upon under the regulations. It seems to us that the Sub-section is much too tightly drawn to be fair and equitable in its operation. As it stands, if a man is entitled to benefit on the day before the making of the regulations, which would cut him out of benefit, he is entitled to receive benefit during the three months while his case is being ex- 1357 amined but if, for any reason, he has 27 or 28 stamps on his card and during the two weeks, or the week immediately after the making of the regulations, he gets the extra stamps, then, as the Clause now stands, he would not get the benefit of them. That seems unreasonable and we therefore propose to re-word the Subsection by incorporating this Amendment and the succeeding Amendments so that it would read as follows:Benefit shall, during such periods as may be necessary for the examination of the qualifications of any person for the receipt of benefit under the said regulations, but not in any case after the expiration of six months from the said date, be paid to him as if the regulations had not been made.I have explained the purpose of the first Amendment which is to deal with the unnecessary line of demarcation drawn between the man who happens to be entitled to benefit at the date the regulations are made and the man who because he gets work or is in work then, qualifies for benefit perhaps two or three months before his case can be adjudicated. The second Amendment turns "may" into "shall" in line 33. If the man is entitled to benefit there is no reason why the benefit should be made permissive. If he is qualified under the law as it stands and has not been disqualified under the regulations, it seems to us that, in equity, he ought to be entitled to benefit and that there is no reason for leaving it open. The next Amendment is merely a drafting Amendment. I thought there was a further Amendment making the period six months instead of three months but it seems to have been dropped. However this is a simple proposal and is designed to make the Sub-section fair and equitable in its working. [Laughter.] The hon. Member who laughs evidently does not completely understand it, but I think she would be very indignant about it if she were one of the people "caught out" under this provision as it stands.
It may be that this Sub-section is only common form and I suspect that the fact that it has appeared in previous Acts, is the reason why it appears in this Bill, but in the Acts of 1922 and 1924 in which a similar form of words appears, the intention was not to cut down benefits but to improve benefits and there was less case therefore for objecting to the rigorous application of this provision. 1358 The effect of these words in the previous Acts was indeed, to leave things as they were. The effect of the words in this Bill would be to put insured persons into an unnecessarily unfortunate position. I am sure that it is not the desire of the right hon. Lady to deal harshly with people on the borderline and these Amendments merely tone down the application of the new regulations until the case of the individual concerned has been adjudicated upon, whereas, as the Subsection stands, a man's benefit would be reduced or refused while his case was, still sub judice.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I cannot accept the Amendment which is obviously moved under a misapprehension as to the meaning of the Clause. This is an administrative Clause and it is not intended to-spread a particular claim over three months but to give the Department time to make the necessary review of outstanding claims within three months. It would be most undesirable from the Ministry's point of view to have a spread-over applied to the examination of these claims, instead of an examination of the categories as it were of claims, and the estimate of the time required is based upon experience. We find that it takes three months to examine the register and that is a period which has worked satisfactorily in connection with the putting into operation of changes in the Acts on previous occasions. We believe that it will be satisfactory for this purpose, and, for these reasons, and because this proposal would be utterly unsatisfactory in the form suggested by the Amendment, I ask the House to reject it.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I am replying to the group of Amendments which this discussion covers, and I have said nothing about six months. I am referring to the three months which 1359 it is suggested should be extended to the new claims, as well as the first examination and it is that to which I object.
§ Amendment negatived.