§ Mr. LOGAN
I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out Sub-section (1).
I consider that this is a Sub-section which certainly does not meet the occasions of to-day, and which ought justly to be deleted. I find that the explanatory memorandum states that the main object of the Bill is to make certain changes in the National Health Insurance scheme which are necessary to restore the scheme to a position of financial stability. Naturally, we are told that the excessive unemployment has placed these insurance funds in jeopardy, and the only remedy of the National Government is to insert a clause which is tantamount to a penalty, and which is going to deny to the insured person those benefits to which he is justly entitled under National Health Insurance. We have to look back to the time when the Act first began, to the great cry that was raised for men in 1914, to the dislocation that was caused by the taking of a vast number of employed men into the Army for war purposes, the aftermath of wounded, and the general collapse in the industrial world from which we are suffering to-day. This Measure is put forward from the point of view of economy, but I dare venture to say that, from the point of view of national efficiency and of justice to those who were engaged and are likely to be engaged in industry at a time of depression, this is 38 not a national system of economy, but a. national system of penalisation of those who are genuinely unemployed.
Many systems have been introduced to meet the obligation that each and every one of us has in respect of those who are genuinely unemployed. Previous to 1928, a sane system of franking cards was introduced, under which any bona fide unemployed man had the opportunity of either registering with his own trade society—there were only one or two such societies; they were very exceptional—or of going to the employment exchange and having his card franked; so that the man who was genuinely unemployed through no fault of his own and who was insured under the Act at that time had the right and was entitled to benefit. It was necessary that some arrangement should be come to, and I want to say here and now that in the working of the Act many municipalities were saved large sums of money by the responsibility being carried to a great extent by the societies; but it was a system of insurance. If I understand insurance aright, in times when there was plenty of work, and when men could put 48 or 50 stamps on their cards in a year, there would be no necessity for an insurance scheme; but in a state of society where men are unemployed, where it is a question of mutual cooperation, and where risks have to be covered, those risks can only be covered by insurance, and, therefore, those who are lucky in being employed must meet the eventuality of the unemployment of others who are not so lucky. [An HON. MEMBER: "Without limit?"] Not without limit. The maintenance of those who are unemployed is a State obligation. But the hon. Member who asked me that question, if he were covered by insurance, would expect that, if he died, the risk of his death would be covered by the insurance society. We are all hoping to live, but we cover our insurance in case of death. This is insurance, and, on actuarial calculations, it was proved to be right. The new Sub-section says:Notwithstanding anything in Sub-section (1) of this Section a person who becomes employed within the meaning of this Act while treated by virtue of any of the provisions of this Section as insured shall not, on ceasing to be so employed, become entitled by reason thereof to the extension of insurance conferred by the said Sub-section (1) unless39 The provision in the principal Act is:Where an insured person being an employed contributor and a member of an Approved Society ceases to be employed within the meaning of this Act he shall, for a period of 12 months commencing next after the end of the contribution week in which he ceased to be so employed, for all purposes be treated as if he were an employed contributor insured tinder this Act.That means in National Health Insurance practice that, until 12 months after the date of the last stamp, that man shall not be treated as having ceased to be an employed contributor. For the purposes of administration, they eased the situation and gave a lengthened period to the unemployed man, and it was decided that, if the year expired in February, he would not cease to be insured until the June and, if it expired in July, the insurance would not expire until December, practically giving him an extra period of 16 or 18 months whereby he would have an opportunity to qualify by again finding work. If he did not find work, the franking of the card gave him an opportunity, and the form on which his name was signed and vouched for by the Employment Exchange entitled him to prolongation of insurance in his society. The Act of 1912 did not come into operation in regard to the colossal sums which have been invested in War Stock except for the purposes of valuation. It was deliberately brought into operation to give an opportunity to the nation to relieve itself, by a tripartite arrangement of employer, individual and State contributing to a national system of insurance, with all the implications of unemployment which must necessarily follow in the casual walks of life.
It cannot be denied, whichever way the Minister may attempt to reason it, that, instead of the burden being nationally borne, it is now to be borne by the employed members in the societies. I have heard members say, "Why not? Surely those who are employed ought to be truly thankful that there is an insurance fund to meet their claim when the occasion arises." The Act has been operating for 20 years. Is it not late in the day, when there is dislocation of work, the closing down of factories, and the employment of black and Chinese labour in the mercantile marine, for the National Government to say that they must pro- 40 tect the fund? I say, we should use the funds of the nation for the national welfare, and, though we may have struck bad times, surely we should not get into such a state of pessimism as to think that the great British race is never going to be employed and that only a small category of the people contributing are to get the benefit of the National Health Insurance scheme. Are the Members of the National party aware of what is about to be done? Very few Members, unless they have had administrative knowledge, are able to deal with the subject, and I am convinced that, when it is explained to them, they will not be prepared to do an injustice to the vast army of workers. The Bill implies that they shall cease to have the benefits that they had previous to 1928 and that prolongation of insurance in respect of any particular industry shall not be allowed.
The system has been working well for 20 years from an administrative point of view, not I agree from a financial point of view, but the whole of the world from a financial point of view has not been working well. The Government must understand that it cannot be all profit and no loss. They must realise the wonderful service which has been given to the unemployed in providing for prolongation of insurance, and for the benefits given to the women and children in the home from the point of view of social service in connection with the National Health Insurance Act. Suppose, on the grounds of economy, you throw the vast army of unemployed on to the streets, who, from the point of view of social services, is going to make good the cost? Who is going to attend to the medical requirements of those poor people when there is malnutrition and they require medical advice? A nation protects itself in times of epidemic by its scientific efficiency. Is it efficiency to reduce still further below the poverty line men who are already down and out? If that is the intention, there is not much vision and broadmindedness, and, what is more, there is a lack of human sympathy, on the part of Members of the National Government. This so-called economy is really a sign of mental deficiency on the part of the Government who bring forward the proposition.
What do they propose? In plain terms, it means that at the end of 1933 all the 41 obligations which were imposed upon society in regard to prolongation of insurance and the giving of certain rates of benefit will cease to exist. The Minister comes forward and says that the qualification for the continuation in employment or in insurance benefit is that eight stamps shall be upon the card. I could take hon. Members into areas today where it has not been possible for young men and adults to find work during the last five years. After a man who has contributed to the National Insurance Fund for 16, 17 or 18 years continually has lost his employment, what right have the Government to come along and say: "We are, because of the fact that you are unemployed and belong to the depressed classes, because employment cannot be found for you, going to penalise you and your family and bring you down to the Poor Law level by not providing you with the most essential need in illness, namely, the doctor.
In my opinion, the poor have received a boon in connection with National Health Insurance benefit which cannot be measured by money. The medical fraternity of this country, with very few exceptions, have done wonderfully well in attending to the wants of the poor and giving the medical advice so essential in a national scheme of this character. I deplore that at the end of 1933 the Government should throw the unemployed on to the scrap heap and not allow them any right of continuing the membership and advantages which they have enjoyed for 16, 17, 18 or 19 years through being members of an approved society. What right have the Government to forfeit the benefits of those contributions? I am the general secretary of an approved society, and the funds which I administer are not funds for the benefit of the State. Every penny piece will be administered for the benefit of every one on the books of the society which I represent. We have a right in this House if any vested interests, or the National Government seek to do anything to defeat the main object of the insurance scheme, to object to the proposal. I have indicated what is going to happen in regard to the unemployed, and that the cost to the State of dealing with the poverty which is likely to ensue is likely to be greater than the cost of the allowances to the approved society under the prolongation of the insurance scheme. 42 4.0 p.m.
There is another remarkable point which arises out of the proposed amending scheme of the Government upon which I am fully convinced the Minister cannot provide an adequate answer. What about the voluntary contributor under the National Health Insurance Act? It was agreed by common consent that if a man had paid 104 contributions into the National Health Insurance Fund he could, if he received over a certain amount per annum, become a voluntary contributor. Many thousands of A.1 contributors up and down the country, taking advantage of the rise of wages during the War, became voluntary contributors. Some of them set up in small businesses, and, as a result, continued as voluntary members owing to the fact that provision was made to enable them, if they continued to contribute, to qualify for an old age pension at 65 years of age, but under the scheme they do not receive their old age pension until the age of 70. What is happening now? Thousands of voluntary contributors, including the small shopkeeper, who is on the point of bankruptcy, are being penalised. This Measure says that no man shall be able to qualify as an employed contributor unless he has paid a contribution.
My contention—I may be wrong—is that under the National Insurance scheme, as to-day administered, a voluntary contributor has the opportunity of a reversion to what is known as the A.1 class. He can leave the voluntary contributing class and go back to his natural status of an A.1 contributor and, under the system of the Employment Exchanges, a society can accept his cards and place the credit of the unemployment stamps to his benefit in the National Health Insurance book. I put it to the Government that, under the proposed system, you are denying the right to the voluntary contributor of being reinstated in the A.1 class, although he has been paying for 13 years into the insurance scheme, four or five years on his own account as a small shopkeeper. Having failed, you say to the small shopkeeper, "We deny you the right," because, does it not follow that no voluntary contributor can become an employed contributor under the Act until he has at least eight stamps to his credit? Therefore, if eight stamps to the credit of the contributor be the qualification that en- 43 titles him to the prolongation, I contend that you are taking away from a deserving class, who, perhaps, for 13 or 14 years have been contributing their small savings, having gone into business and then failed, and not been able to find employment, the right of coming in, although they may have contributed during the best portion of their lives.
I have spoken in this House on many occasions, and I have wished men of all parties might be able to see the reasonable side of life. Whether we are in a national crisis or not—there is much doubt about it, but I accept it that there is a national crisis—I do believe that if you wish to avert disaster, the people, above all, must be made contented, and the duty we owe to mankind is to the poorest of the poor. I believe that if we want happy homes and good, sane Government with sane minds, we must, by legislation, show a sanity which does not appear to me to be shown in a Bill of this description. This may be considered language that is too outspoken in the British House of Commons, but this is the forum where it is right that expression of opinion should be given in regard to the difficulties of the day. In moving the deletion of this Sub-section, I would appeal from the point of view of administration and from the point of view of humanitarian principles, and would say that you are totally wrong in going on these lines, and, from the point of view from which the National Health Insurance Act, 1912, was established, you arc diverging on to lines which are totally irrelevant to-day.
Last, but not least, let me point out that you have got to meet the problem of this great mass of unemployed from whom you are going to take the benefits. I do not know what may happen in the near future if you deny them medical benefits. I find many cases in my district which are not able to carry on. If you insinuate that medical men are to be denied these rights, and that men are to be taken off the books of our society, I and others are prepared to administer the Act. We are prepared to pay State medical benefits, or to pay the medical men from the funds of the society, to keep a medical service intact for the benefit of our people, for we feel that such service is above pounds, shillings and 44 pence. The time will come when men and women will be required to go back into the fields and industry. How can men and women who have not certain of the necessaries of life and who have not had the treatment of medical men, go back again and face the great fight in the industrial world? I do beseech the National Government not to take a shortsighted view with regard to this class of people. I speak from the point of view of one who has had at least some little experience, having been at it since 1912. I think the Government are unwise in bringing forward such a proposition, and I hope the Minister will be moved to allow the original Section of the Act of 1924 to remain, so that our people of all classes will have the ordinary decencies of life, by having the protection of the medical fraternity in days of dire distress.
§ Mr. LEWIS
It seems to me that the whole of the speech to which we have just listened was not to any extent addressed to the facts that we have to meet. We have before us certain actuarial calculations that the funds of the National Health Insurance scheme at this moment are faced with liabilities which they will not be able ultimately to meet. The hon. Member comes before this Committee and says that this particular part of the Government's proposal should be deleted. This part of the proposal, as indeed the whole Bill, is designed to do one thing only, and that is to ensure that the funds of the National Health Insurance scheme remain solvent. Anyone who objects to the Bill, or who objects to this or any other provision in it, should show to this Committee that the actuarial calculations are wrong, or should be prepared to argue that it does not matter if the fund ultimately becomes empty, or should bring before us some alternative way in which the liabilities on the fund can be curtailed, or should be prepared to advocate the putting of further sums of money into the fund from some new source or other. Unless an hon. Member is prepared to advocate one of those alternatives, he has no right to ask this Committee to delete any part of these proposals brought forward by the responsible Minister. Does the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the Chamber argue that the actuarial calculations on which the Minister is acting are wrong?
§ Mr. LEWIS
We have got thus far, that actuarial calculations are accepted. Then, faced with the knowledge that the fund cannot ultimately meet all the liabilities which, under the present law, it has to meet, does the hon. Member argue that we should fold our hands and see the fund gradually become empty? If he does not, then clearly he must show us either what alternative measures can be taken to reduce the liability, or whatever alternative source there is from which we can get money to put into the fund. It is so easy to make the kind of speech the hon. Gentleman has just made, expressing sympathy with the unemployed, but it is not in the least helpful. It does not help the unemployed, and it does not help this Committee. Later we may learn from some of the hon. Members whose names are attached to this Amendment some practical alternatives to the proposal put forward by the Minister. I do not suppose that any Member of this House was pleased to find that it was necessary to introduce such a Bill at all. Those of us who listened to the speech of the Minister on Second Reading could not fail to be struck by the fact that he himself deplored the necessity, but, surely, we have a right to expect that Members of this House in Committee will face the facts before us, and when we have certain definite proposals put forward, based on calculations which are not denied, we are entitled to some practical criticism in support of proposals to delete part of the Bill, and not to a mere general expression of sympathy with the unemployed, which helps neither them nor the deliberations of this Committee.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
I do not complain, of course, that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) has given rather a wide sweep to the first speech in Committee upon the Bill, but, as regards the wider aspects of his argument, the reply, if he will allow me to say so, was given so tersely, so 46 convincingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not cover that ground again, particularly as it is not really necessary to take such a wide sweep to enable the Committee to deal with this Amendment, which covers a comparatively narrow point.
I should like to bring the mind of the Committee back to the case as it now stands. The Committee is aware that, under our system of insurance, the risk is actuarially covered only as long as the contributions are paid. If, owing to unemployment or any other cause, the contributions cease to be paid there is no further accumulated value or right in the insurer. In the ordinary language of insurance, there is no surrender value. That will enable the Committee completely to dismiss from their minds the more emotional parts of the argument of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, when he spoke of a harsh Government calling upon the Committee to agree to the forfeiture of the rights of the unemployed. There is no question of the forfeiture of rights. Every right is enjoyed so long as the contributions are paid, and when the contributions cease, although there is no accumulated value left in the insured person, it is recognised that there would be hardship in an abrupt termination of insurance rights. In order to avoid that hardship it has always been recognised that some extension of the insurance rights should be given even beyond what is strictly legitimate on the actuarial and financial basis of the insurance scheme.
The extension that is given is an average of 21 months of free insurance, with full benefits, and then an extended year at reduced benefits. That is the standing scheme which has always existed, and the Committee will appreciate that it is a very generous extension in order to make things easier for those who are suffering from the evil of unemployment. Under this Bill we propose to give yet further extensions in order to save the situation for the unemployed as long as we can, and in order to save their insurance rights as long as they can be saved. The benefits which are given under those concessions 47 are given in spite of the fact that the unemployed person is making no contribution. Being unemployed, he cannot contribute. They have an extended period of 21 months at full benefits and then a further period of one year at reduced benefits, and still further rights are proposed to be given.
It has always been recognised that if during the period of unemployment the man or woman gets once more into work, then their whole series of rights—the 21 months at full benefit, followed by the 12 months at reduced benefit, begin all over again. It is a very big extension of the principle that anyone who gets back into work should at once start the whole period of concession all over again. In order to make these rights available there has to be some evidence that the man or woman has begun once more a period of employment. Hitherto, the evidence demanded has been one stamp, which may mean no more than one day's employment. I submit to the Committee that in any common-sense view of practical business administration it is an impossible provision that the whole series of concessions of free insurance should begin again on evidence of re-employment no more substantial than one day's employment. The whole essence of the National Health Insurance scheme is the contributory basis. The Committee will agree that we must take that as the basis of our scheme for re-establishing National Health Insurance. It is a contributory scheme, and in order to secure the contributory basis it is absolutely essential to substitute some more reasonable test of re-employment. That is widely recognised by all who are engaged in practical administration, and it has the support of the approved societies. They recognise that there must be a practical test.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I derive that opinion from the Consultative Council of the Ministry of Health, which is the representative body that advises me as to the opinion of the approved societies. The practical test that the Bill suggests is that, instead of taking a single stamp, which may mean only one day's employ- 48 ment, we should take a period of eight weeks in the year during which he has been contributing. That means that the unemployed man or woman must show eight stamps for work during the two half-years. They need not be for consecutive weeks or for any particular period, but may be distributed right through the two contributing half-years. They must be made at some time during this period of a year.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
There must be eight contributions in any two consecutive half-years. Eight weeks contributions at any period during such a period of 12 months. They may all be made in one half-year or the eight may be made in two consecutive half-years. That is a reasonable test; it is the minimum reasonable test whether the unemployed person has actually got back into work. Anyone who has substantially got back into work and is to be entitled on a contributory basis to start once more a free period of benefit must be able to show that record of eight stamps.
There is only one further point, a technical point, which was raised by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. It relates to the voluntary contributor. The hon. Member will not suspect me of using a derisive phrase if I say that his point on that matter appears to be in the nature of a mare's ne3t. The Bill will make no difference whatever to the position of the voluntary contributor as compared with any other contributor under the scheme. Under the present system the voluntary contributor if he falls out of insurance in the manner described by the hon. Member can only come back on re-qualifying by producing evidence of re-employment. What we are doing is to stiffen up the evidence of re-employment that is required and we are stiffening it up for the voluntary contributor as much as for anybody else.
§ Mr. LOGAN
Suppose a voluntary contributor ceases insurance because of failure to pay the contribution and then he reverts to an A.1 contributor by giving notice to the society? Franking could 49 not take place. He could not go to the Employment Exchange under the present Bill as he could under the old system.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
There will be precisely no difference whatever in the process that he has to go through. The only requirement is that, like everybody else, he will have to give reasonably satisfactory evidence of re-employment. That is the whole point. In order to make sure that this very important extension of a concession and a right is not abused by the mere legal fiction of re-employment, we must provide a reasonable period of re-qualification of eight weeks instead of the present derisive period of one day.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
We are glad to have heard the explanation given by the Minister. I have a complaint to make against the Minister and against the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. The Government would have the House of Commons and the insured people of this country believe that they are giving something additional to the unemployed by this Bill whereas the unemployed will be worse off. The Minister will not get up and say that the unemployed person will be better off under this Bill than he was under the Prolongation Act. The obvious intention of the Clause is to do away with the prolongation Act. The Minister wants the scheme to be actuarially sound and that is apparently the intention of wiping out prolongation and bringing in the provision as to eight contributions in a year. In that case the Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that having wiped away the prolongation provisions, which kept the unemployed in insurance for years, and then say that this Bill is going to do better for the unemployed. It is not; and he knows that full well.
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. O. Lewis) said that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool had run away from the facts and did not face actuarial calculations. It is true that if there is no money coming in you cannot get any money out of a scheme. I would remind the hon. Member, however, that the one party that helped to destroy the actuarial basis of this scheme was the Tory party through the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The whole of this problem arises from the fact that the State broke its contract with the 50 insured population of this country under the Economy Act of 1926, and we are in this difficulty because of that fact, in the main.
I am never critical of the officers of the Ministry of Health; they are doing their work exceedingly well. Were it not for the fact that they have their fingers on this business fairly tight I doubt if it would have succeeded as well as it has done. Having said that, I think the officers of every Department when they issue a memoranda of explanation always do it to please the political colour of the Minister for the time being. That is pretty obvious. Let me show why I think the memorandum is a little biased:Continuance of insurance principle …
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I should like to point out that the memorandum is my memorandum. It was presented by me, and no responsibility of any sort or kind rests upon the officers of the Ministry.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I think the right hon. Gentleman is the first Minister who has ever written such a technical memorandum, and I compliment him on having fathomed the intricacies of an insurance scheme which even secretaries of approved societies cannot do. I take it, therefore, that he has drafted this memorandum and presented it to Parliament. If he did, and, of course, I take his word for it, it is biased against the case he is putting to-day. It says:The Bill deals with the continuance in insurance of persons who have paid no contributions over a long period by reason of unemployment.4.30 p.m.
It has been the case for some time past that an unemployed person under the prolongation scheme is kept in insurance, and our complaint against the present proposal is that if we were, as an Opposition, to give way to a proposal to reduce the chances of continuing the unemployed within the scheme and this Government remains in power much longer they will take a little more each year from the unemployed and in the end may require eight months' and not eight weeks' contributions from them to maintain themselves in insurance. That would be a very dangerous principle to admit. The right hon. Gentleman said he was rather affected by the emotional parts of the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. After all, there is nothing 51 which raises emotion more than sickness, and we are dealing with sickness and disablement benefit under this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman says that the rights are there so long as the contributions are paid. Our complaint is that an insured person who is unemployed is to be asked in future to make good eight contributions in a year in order to maintain himself in insurance.
Hitherto he has not been required to make these contributions, and, therefore, what is going to happen is that hundreds if not thousands of people are unemployed for such a period that they will not be able to qualify at all by getting eight weeks work in a year. If an unemployed person cannot secure eight weeks work, eight stamps on his insurance card, he falls out of health insurance. That is quite plain. If that be so I can conceive a very large proportion of our insured population falling out of insurance altogether, not of course, for the purposes of pension, because I am glad to see there are safeguards in the Bill with regard to that class, but there is no doubt that many will fall out of insurance for the purposes of health insurance benefit unless they get these eight weeks work during a year. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman cannot say that this Government is more kindly disposed towards the unemployed than previous Governments. In fact, if the Minister of Health had employed the right language in regard to this Bill he would say definitely that the unemployed are a burden on the approved societies, that there is no contribution coming in in respect of them, and that the Government itself is not going to make up the loss of contributions because of unemployment, but in future are going to throw the responsibility for maintaining insurance on the approved societies and the unemployed. That in short is what the Government are doing.
The Tory party is accustomed to employing the subtle word in the right place so as not to give the whole game away, and they have done so in this Memorandum. But the right hon. Gentleman in fact gave the whole case away when he said that the Government were going to save the rights of the unemployed persons as long as they can be saved. What virtue is there in that? This is what 52 will happen. An insured person will fall out of employment in March, 1932. Under the law as it now stands he could be kept in insurance for all purposes until the end of December, 1933. The prolongation scheme would have kept him in and carried him over even beyond that. This new provision will keep him in the insurance scheme to the end of 1933 only, and from December, 1933, he will require each 12 months to have eight contributions in order to keep himself in benefit. Speaking not only for myself but I think for the party behind me, I say, that while we are as determined as the Government to retain this scheme on an insurance basis—
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I think the hon. Member is making a mistake. It is not a case of eight contributions every year. He is required to make eight contributions in order to start his period of free insurance over again.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
May I put this point to the Minister of Health? A man passes out of insurance, he does not work for a period, that is for 18 months or two years. But assume that he works in the 18 months for five weeks or four weeks or three weeks. Would his three weeks' work keep him in insurance? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what a man who is out of work needs to keep him from passing out of insurance?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I am very sorry, but I do not see the difficulty. The eight weeks fresh contributions have the effect of starting the whole period of free insurance over again, that is the period of 21 months and one extended year. I do not understand the difficulty of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), but the answer to his question is, I think, that the period of requalification is eight weeks in any two consecutive half years within the period of 21 months and the one extended year. A less period is not enough.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not propose to refer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) although it is a substantial one. It is quite obvious, however, that if a man works for anything less than a period of eight weeks he cannot re-enter insurance again. It seems to me that the more Bills we pass in regard to health insurance the more technical and difficult the position 53 becomes. Let me again give the right hon. Gentleman a concrete case. A man loses his employment at the end of March, 3932. Ordinarily he continues until the end of December, 1933, on the books, as the prolongation scheme would keep him insured beyond that. The right hon. Gentleman would have us believe that this new provision would work in this way. A man loses his work at the end of March, 1932, and he is kept in insurance until the end of 1933. But suppose he gets employment in January, 1934, and works for eight weeks he at once recommences his insurance. The point I wish to make is this, that unless he gets these eight weeks in before the end of 1933 he goes out of insurance automatically, because he has ceased to be insured. Can a man start at the beginning of 1934 and re-qualify for insurance by working his eight weeks? I thought I knew a little about health insurance, but this Bill is the most intricate Measure of all.
§ Mr. DAVIES
This Bill makes it almost impossible for the average individual to understand what the Government are trying to do. This Memorandum if it is issued for the purpose of making the position clear should start with Clause 1, and explain what it means. Instead of that it starts by explaining the finance of women's insurance. Then we get the loss of contribution income and prolongation. The Memorandum ought to have told us what is meant in Clause 1, then Clause 2, and so on. I also want to make a complaint because we are referred to the National Health Insurance Act of 1924. But we cannot get any explanation at all of the proposals of this Bill unless we refer to the Act of 1928, which added new Clauses to the Act of 1924. Really the right hon. Gentleman should have given us a Memorandum which is little more explanatory. The Amendment now under discussion is fundamental. We protest against the attitude of the Government in this connection, because it throws for the first time for some years past the responsibility of maintaining insurance almost entirely on the society and the unemployed person. Hitherto Governments have accepted some responsibility by way of issuing money 54 from the unclaimed stamp account or the central fund. Now they are saying that no unemployed person shall in future have any favour from the State and very little from the central fund, and that they must make good by working when there is no work for them. At the present rate of unemployment I am sure that the Government are making a sad mistake in their treatment of the unemployed. We shall vote for the Amendment in order to register our protest against the policy of the Government in relation to the unemployed.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
I want to ask the Minister of Health if he will very carefully consider the position which will arise as a result of this legislation by reference to the Act of 1924 and also under the Act of 1928, whereby a wife in childbirth who can now receive medical treatment under both these Acts, may not be able to receive medical treatment or benefit either of a transitional nature or by way of institution if the Clause is carried as it is drafted.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
In any case the point mentioned by the hon. Member is not relevant to this Sub-section. The Amendment is relevant to the Sub-section of the Clause which deals with that matter.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
I quite understand, but it seems to me that transitional payment and medical treatment are somewhat jeopardised by the Bill as drafted both as regards wife, man and child, but if the right hon. Gentleman assures me that the point is dealt with later on in the Clause I am satisfied. But it is most difficult to protect those who need it most by legislation by reference.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not know whether it is in order but the question of the actuarial soundness of this scheme has been raised. It would be wrong for me to state in detail how I would finance the scheme, but I can say that I would reorganise the whole scheme, which has never been an insurance scheme. If you are going to revalue insurance you ought not to do it in this way, but you ought 55 to go into the whole question of health insurance and make the scheme a proper insurance scheme. Let me state what occurs. You have two classes of tradesmen working together in the same factory. One of them, because of the nature of his calling and not through any fault of his own or of his society's administration, is a heavy sickness cost to the trade. Alongside him is another man belonging to a trade with a lower rate of sickness. I am the Chairman of a Pattern-Makers' Society. We have a very low rate of sickness because our trade is not calculated to produce sickness. But a moulder works beside a pattern-maker and is in a trade with a higher rate of sickness. We are able to meet all our obligations and to show a surplus, but the moulder's society is constantly in debt because of the sickness of its members. The whole system of insurance ought to be recast and the society that is in a privileged position ought to help to bear the burden of the societies which are in a worse position. I am rather sick of all the talk about actuarial soundness. If this scheme is to be run as an actuarially sound scheme we must recast the whole of it, and the Labour party must face the fact that that means reduction; it means that someone must suffer and that benefits will be knocked off.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I thought I had explained that the scheme would still be actuarially sound if the State continued its original grant to its funds.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not agree with that, unless my hon. Friend does what he suggested in his Second Reading speech. It can be done if he tightens the administration and knocks the people off benefit. My hon. Friend said on Second Heading that it could be done by administration. If he can knock them off benefit by administration he does not need an Act of Parliament. The hon. Member said on Second Reading that by more careful or more rigid administration the scheme could be made sounder. I am not taking my stand on actuarial soundness at all. We are faced with a class of persons, men and women, who have been unemployed for long periods. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) represents, not one of the most distressed areas, but an area which has 56 had its share of distress. He knows that there are many decent men, good men, who have been unemployed for years, who have searched the shipyards for work for long periods. Their position at the present time is this: As long as their society thinks that they are going to look for work and still follow normal insurable employment, it can, if the man franks his card regularly and returns it every six months, keep him in insurance. This Bill proposes to alter that position. Suppose that a man is dismissed or loses his employment on 28th December, 1932. He is kept in insurance for 12 months following 31st December. That man must get in eight weeks work a year after that, and he must get the eight weeks work in that year.
That is much more stringent than the present arrangement. It is much more stringent than unemployment insurance in the case of transitional benefit. A man may be 55 years of age with a record of remarkably steady work, without unemployment. He may have drawn nothing from the fund. If a man of that age loses his job after he has been 20 or 30 years in it, he is in a worse position than the man who is regularly out of and in work and has contributed far less to the fund. He is not up to the ropes and does not know the places where jobs are likely to be found; and, secondly, being skilled in only one class of work he finds the greatest difficulty in getting work again. Cases are not uncommon of men suffering in this way after they have had 20 years of steady work since 1912. They are thrown out of work. Possibly they have drawn nothing from the fund. Such a man loses his job, and if in his first year of unemployment he cannot get eight stamps he loses every penny of his previous contribution, other than his pension rights. Alongside of him you may have a man who is six or eight months out of work on the average each year, and during 20 years he may have been four or five years out of work. He is treated entirely differently, although his contributions to the fund may have been less. Why inflict the hardship of the test of eight contributions at a time like this in the case of the man of 55 years of age?
I am speaking now of my own trade of pattern-maker. There is the case of Weir's, of Cathcart. There 50 or 60 men, 57 highly specialised in their work, have recently been paid off. Some of them have been at work there for 20 years without a day's unemployment. These men have now been out of work nine months and they may remain out a year, They will find the greatest difficulty in getting other places. Yet they are to be penalised, in spite of all their contributions to the fund, because of this test of eight stamps. I notice that the Minister shook his head when my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) said that this proposal would affect hundreds and thousands of men. Can the Minister say how many are likely to be affected? I remember that when he was sitting on this side of the House and the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) was putting through a Bill, the present Minister of Health played a not inactive part in demanding a White Paper which would show the number of people to be affected by certain proposals in that Bill. I expected that in connection with the present Bill we would have been provided with an estimate of the number of persons likely to be affected.
Every week the problem that we are discussing becomes greater. The Government are going to throw out men who have been a long time unemployed. The country is faced with increased unemployment figures, and therefore a growing number of people may be affected by the Bill. The Minister rather deprecated the introduction of sentiment into the Debate. He said that we had to get back to the basis of eight stamps to make the scheme something like an insurance scheme. I put it to any person who is running a society under this scheme. That society may have a member for 20 years. Would the society dream of letting him lapse because he had not got eight stamps in the first 18 months of his unemployment? There is not a society that would do it. Societies carry the members on their books and even make an extension of their rules in order to carry members on. They make all kinds of accommodations in order to meet their members. This is an extremely hard Clause because its effect is to cut oft from the email amount of sickness benefit which they now receive, large sections of people. ID will not save anything to the nation 58 as a whole, because the very poor must get medical attention. All that will happen will be that Poor Law assistance must be substituted for what is now done for these poor people through health insurance. In other words you are transferring a burden which is now a semi-national burden, on to local people, and making it a purely local burden. When the hon. Member for Leith, occupied a place on this side one of the things which he used to denounce with great severity was the transference of national burdens on to local authorities. The medical profession will carry on with these people but the burden will be undertaken by the Poor Law authority. I have no criticism to make of the Poor Law doctors. I think they do their work magnificently but the people who have been paying into the National Health Insurance Fund for years are surely entitled to better treatment than to have the whole burden of their sickness claims thrown on to the Poor Law authorities.
There is another aspect of the question. There is this question of the 7s. 6d. in respect of men and a smaller sum in respect of women, of sickness benefit. That is to be taken from them. One of the benefits which they have at the moment is that that sum, when they secure it, is immune from any interference by the poor law people. The main Acts governing this matter require that there shall, first, be 7s. 6d. or 7s. payment before the Poor Law authorities take any part in connection with the matter. That amount was deliberately excluded from the Poor Law authorities by the Statute because it was felt that sick people who were covered by National Health Insurance should have some little extra which might help to restore them to health earlier than would otherwise be the case. That is why Parliament eliminated this 7s. 6d. from the provisions as to poor law administration. But now we are to go back on all that. Now these poor folk will not receive even that benefit which means that they will be entirely chargeable to the Poor Law and will have nothing additional to receive. I cannot see a single redeeming feature about these proposals. The one defence is the defence of actuarial soundness. As we are to be here all day dealing with this matter we might as well go into these questions now and I would ask either the Minister or 59 the Parliamentary Secretary to reply further on these points which I have raised.
May I say further to the Minister that I wish he would not be too superior in answering our questions. After all, we arc all Members and I wish he would tell us the answers to these points which we are raising not in a tone of superiority but addressing us as human beings and Members of the House of Commons. I trust that the hon. Member for Leith will impart a little of his joviality or at least of his kindness to the consideration of this matter and I would like him to deal with certain specific questions. In the first place, will he kindly tell us who are the members of this consultative council to which reference has been made? We are told that this body is representative of the collecting societies the friendly societies and the trade unions. Are all those sections represented on the council? I should like an assurance on that point. Is it the case, first, that this body is representative of all sections concerned, and, secondly, that it has approved of these provisions? I understood from the Minister that the council had given its sanction to this alteration of the law. I hope that the hon. Members for Leith when he is replying will deal with that point—or am I to understand that, because I belong to the section who sit in this part of the House, I am to get no reply at all.
Surely we are entitled to a reply on these matters in this the first Debate which has been raised on a matter of tremendous importance. This clause is one of the most important,, if not the most important clause that we have to discuss. I do not wish to delay the proceedings but I would point out that the Parliamentary Secretary shook his head when the hon. Member for Westhoughton spoke of hundreds of thousands being affected by this proposal, and we ought to have a definite reply from him as to how many are affected. What is the estimated number? In my view the number will be far greater than the Parliamentary Secretary thinks. Then, one of the main defences of the Minister for these proposals was that the consultative Council had approved of them and that the trade unions were 60 represented on that body. How many trade union representatives are there and who are they? These are questions which must constantly recur in this Debate and to which we ought to have some reply at once.
This is a reactionary proposal. Do hon. Members realise all it means in areas like the shipbuilding areas on the Clyde and elsewhere? There is not one new boat on order on the Clyde at the moment and I think there are only two on the stocks on what we call the upper reaches. Think of what that means. It means that those men have no hope of getting eight stamps. They are not old people. Some of them are young men. I ask hon. Members to think of what they are doing. They are saying to these men in effect. "Not because of any fault of yours but because you happen to have been apprenticed to a particular trade you must suffer. You suffer not for any wrong you have done but because the calling which you follow happens to be in exceptional depression." Think of the conditions in the mining areas where the industry is being shut down, where pits have been worked until they are done and miners are no longer needed. I could understand these provisions if it could be argued that these men have done anything wrong, if it could be shown that they had drawn too much, or committed some fraud, but there is not even the so-called excuse which was employed in regard to the married women. These men as I say are being punished just because they are in certain callings.
Hitherto punishment has always been associated with some wrongdoing or crime, but here are men who are to be punished, even more severely than they would be for committing a crime, just because the industry in which they earn their livelihood and on which their wives and families depend is, owing to circumstances over which they have no control, in a state of collapse. The House of Commons may be to blame for not having reorganised industry; the business men of the country may be to blame, but one section who are not to blame are the poor working people who have given their lives to industry. They are the defenceless section of the community, and nothing is left to them but misery and poverty. How can you go to a place like Merthyr Tydvil and say to the 61 miners, "You must get eight weeks' work before you get back into benefit"? You might as well make it 52 weeks. It is an impossibility for these men at the present time, no matter how keen they are to get work. As far as their health insurance, and the small sums which they receive for medical benefit are concerned, you are passing on these men a sentence of terrible severity. Taking into consideration their economic condition you are not justified in imposing that sentence upon them, and I hope that the House of Commons, besides dealing with facts about pounds, shillings and pence, will in the consideration of this question, have some regard to the human element.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I thought that the Minister in his reply to the Mover of this Amendment exercised the full right of a Minister not only in making the best of his case, but also in revealing as little as possible. The right hon. Gentleman almost persuaded Members on his own side that instead of taking something away, this Sub-section was actually giving something, and in view of his statement I think there are certain matters which we ought to have cleared up. The right hon. Gentleman waxed indignant, and was indeed rather incautious from one point of view, at the fact that a man who had been unemployed for 21 weeks and his extra year had only to get one stamp in order to be entitled to continuation of his benefit. The right hon. Gentleman said that in some cases it only meant working one day. I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that by the Minister's own admission the man is losing something by this proposal, because, previously, he became entitled to continuation of his benefits if he had one stamp, but now he has to get eight stamps over a certain period. We need not quarrel as to six months or 12 months, but the fact is that he has to get eight stamps instead of one. The right hon. Gentleman said that that was reasonable, and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) also thought that it was reasonable, and I quite understand that both the Minister and the hon. Member are sincere in that statement. The only difference between them and us is that they represent constituencies in the South and are quite oblivious to the conditions 62 under which great masses of the people live in the industrial areas.
The truth is that to require a man to get eight stamps in the cotton, steel or mining areas at the present time means ruling him out of insurance altogether, and that is why I say that prolongation of insurance has been practically abolished by this Clause. There is also this aspect of the matter. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will deny that if a man who is under 58 years of age goes out of insurance he loses his pension rights also. After a certain period the men who have been hitherto carried by the prolongation of insurance men in the prime of life, good craftsmen who are heartbroken because they cannot get work will be deprived of that support. These men have been clinging to it as to a kind of spar in the midst of the stormy seas of life. They have said, "If we can only manage along until we get to 60 we shall be all right." Now they have even that taken away from them.
I leave it there, but I think we are entitled to know definitely how many people will be affected by this Clause. The mistake in this matter lies in this, that you consider the lot of the unemployed man in different sections. Everybody knows that it is very probable that we shall have another Unemployment Insurance Bill in the autumn—at any rate, it looks like a reconsideration of the position later on—but this matter of health insurance is being considered in a separate category altogether; and the truth is that this House some day will have to look at health insurance and insurance against unemployment and so on as a whole. You cannot consider a man in separate categories. Not only will this Measure create a very strong feeling in the country at large, but when it comes to be actually applied, I venture to say that neither this Government nor any other Government dare apply its provisions.
§ Mr. JAMES DUNCAN
I rise to counter one suggestion made by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who said that an unemployed man's pension rights would come to an end at the same time as, his insurance or at the end of 1933.
§ Mr. LAWSON
No, I was very careful about that. What I said was that if a 63 man went out of insurance at the end of his time, and was not 58 years of age, he lost his pension rights.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
I rose to point out that the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on the Second Reading of this Bill was as follows:I am establishing a period of prolongation to give things an opportunity of pulling round, in the hope that they will so much recover that those still subjected to these misfortunes will get an opportunity of further employment. I propose to give another year, 1934, of continued pension rights, and after that another year of continued pension rights, to the end of 1935. So there will be two years of additional pensions rights at the end of the additional year of medical benefit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 11th May, 1932; col. 1939, Vol. 265.]He went on to explain that at the end of 1935 there would have to be a reconsideration of the whole system of national health insurance, so that the contributory pension rights were safeguarded at any rate till 1935, and that before then there would have to be a reconsideration of the whole question.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I support wholeheartedly the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan). In connection with this Bill to do away with certain rights, as we term them, or concessions, as they are termed by the Minister, we are putting the cart before the horse. Before any attempt was made to bring in a Bill of this description to cut off from benefit numbers of people, we should at least have exhausted every available means to see whether we could balance the budget in connection with this insurance scheme. I do not claim to have statesmanlike qualities such as those possessed by the men on the Front Bench, or at least that they claim to possess, but I could in a very short time draw up a scheme that would put this fund on a proper actuarial basis and prevent the necessity for indulging in this method of balancing the Insurance Fund.
We are always being met with the question of putting things on a sound actuarial basis. I think there are certain things that you should never attempt to put on an actuarial basis. You never discuss, when dealing with your Army or your Navy, putting them on an 64 actuarial basis, because they are for the purpose of defending the interests of the capitalist class in this country. When you are paying out money for the sweeping of streets and for cleansing work, you discuss what would be the probable effects, if you did not spend money in cleaning the streets and in clearing away the horrible slum areas, on the health of the population; and I suggest that in dealing with the health and insurance rights of the population, we ought to deal with the breadwinners and wage-earners of the past in the same way. We ought to consider, first and foremost, what would be the effect of limiting their benefit on the general health and well-being of the community at large.
One or two criticisms which have been made to-day are quite true and might be extended. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) stated that there was a question of the taking away of the 7s. 6d. insurance money given to the person who was ill, who had a family, and who was appealing for Poor Law relief. You throw this burden on the Poor Law, but the Poor Law authorities do not consider the question of putting the patient or the sick man on a sound actuarial basis. They tax the citizens of that area to provide for the health and well-being of the people affected, and it is only a question of levying an additional amount of taxation. The same might be true of this fund, which, after all, is not suffering, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals said, because of the criminal tendencies of those who are potential wage-earners. It is suffering from a breakdown in the capitalist system, which cannot keep them employed, and therefore they cannot contribute to the fund, not through any fault of their own; and they are denied the benefits which they might have expected if they had been in employment.
This 7s. 6d. may be a small thing in the minds of Members of the great National Government, who are bent on robbing the pennies of the blind man to balance the national Budget, but it is a tremendous thing in its effects on the working-class families in working-class areas. That amount of money was given to them in order to provide for little necessaries and in order to build up the health of the man or woman who had fallen into a bad state of disrepair in carrying on the capitalist system and its 65 duties. Therefore, I cannot see, if a man breaks down in mining or in working in any industrial occupation in this country, in carrying on your system and providing profits for the employing class, why he should not be put into a state of proper repair by the State.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I must remind the hon. Member that he is even getting almost beyond a Second Reading speech on this Amendment.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I am prepared to conform to your Ruling, Sir Dennis, and it is just possible that in offering some more suggestions I may be getting out of depth again. I could offer not only destructive criticism, but very helpful suggestions as to how this Bill might be unnecessary, because I always believe that the weak ought to be kept by the strong, and it will always be my outlook, I hope, that those who are suffering ought to be kept by the strong. Why should we not bring within the scope of National Health Insurance every person in this country who is drawing a wage or a salary? I would balance the fund by compelling those who are in employment to come in to insurance. Take, for example, your railwaymen or other large classes of people who are well able to pay. I would extend the limit, take in every person in the State, and compel them to provide for the weak, because it is only by a very little turn of the wheel that a person steps down from the prosperous position into the ranks of the unemployed and the Poor Law recipients. Many Members in the last House of Commons would have found it a distinct advantage if they had been kept in unemployment and health insurance.
I see no reason why we should be carrying a Bill of this description, stealing everything we can from the individuals who are being beaten down, not by any criminal tendencies or faults of their own, but because of the gigantic system that has been in operation for a very long period and that has failed and is heading for national bankruptcy and calamity. Therefore, you bring in a Bill of this kind. I suggest that every available resource in this country ought to have been exploited and used to the uttermost before attacking a defenceless section of the community in the way in which they are being attacked in this Bill. The Minister of 66 Health may put the very best face on it that he can, and the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) as his supporter. I say it with no derogatory sense, because he is in a position in which he has to defend every crime committed by the Government. He may come along now in a different attitude and frame of mind from the attitude he adopted when he sat on a corner bench on this side of the House and at times criticised the Labour Government for not going far enough. They may defend what they are doing, but I say that it is absolutely defenceless.
I am not suggesting that the Minister should accept the Amendment. I know that he cannot accept it, that he is given his instructions by the Cabinet. He comes down here to carry out a dirty job, and he does it in the most plausible manner possible. The Cabinet have given him his orders, and the bankers have given the Cabinet their orders. They are all under orders from the bankers of this country, who are dictating the policy pursued by the Front Bench. Therefore, in my usual frame of mind, I do not come here to appeal to the Minister. I do not appeal to him to accept the Amendment. I simply offer my criticism. I could give an alternative for building up the fund so that it could stand even the present hurricane of unemployment, but we do not meet here for the purpose of hearing helpful criticism or suggestions. We are simply told: "This is the Bill; take it!" It reminds me of the young woman in "Bunty Pulls the Strings," who, when she was asked to learn the Bible, said to her father that she did not want to have anything to do with the Bible as she did not understand it. He said: "Understand it! Who expects you to understand it? There it is, learn it." That is the policy which is being pursued by the Minister. He says: "There is the Bill; you have got to swallow it." We may indulge in all the criticism we like from these benches, but it will be of no avail. Everybody here is under orders from the high priests of the capitalist system, namely, the banking fraternity. They have given their orders to the National Government. We talk about democratic Government, but did the National Government get a mandate at the last election for this kind of work? The working-class would have used their 67 boot on them if the Government had appealed for a mandate of this kind.
Under the guise of national necessity the Government bring in all kinds of petty Bills to take away every right of the working-class which they have built up under a long period of Liberalism. These things are to be taken away by the Government of cut-throats and buccaneers who occupy that Front Bench. They are carrying out the job for which they were returned by the Beaverbrook and Rothermere Press with its scream of national necessity and national economy, in conjunction with a few traitors who left the Labour movement and used the wireless, and every possible method to run the people up a blind alley. It is a great pity that people are able to use a democratic institution for the purpose of carrying through Bills of this description for which they never had a mandate. Democratic and parliamentary government is now at a discount. We are under a dictatorship of the fat bankers who are compelling the Government to move along the lines suggested by them, and the Government are acting on the economy suggestions of masters' federations, landowners and great trusts, who are constantly urging that the people's rights have not been cut far enough. My final word to the Government is to go on with their Bills and to go on plundering. I can see the day in the not very distant future when the working-class will be knocking at this door and when the lampposts will be decorated with a few of the occupants of the Front Bench.
§ Mr. TINKER
I hope that the rising of the Parliamentary Secretary does not mean that the Debate will be concluded. I would advise him to wait until the discussion is finished and then to reply.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is not for a Minister or for the hon. Gentleman to say when the Debate will conclude.
§ Mr. TINKER
It is generally accepted that when a Front Bench representative 68 gets up that it is an indication of the conclusion of the discussion, and I protest against the Parliamentary Secretary rising now.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member can take it as indicating what he likes, but he cannot be quite sure what is in the mind of the occupant of the Chair.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the Debate. May I ask whether there is a general discussion—
§ Mr. BROWN
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) will not, I am sure, take it that there is any intention on the part of the Minister or on my part to curtail the Debate. That is a matter for the Committee and the Chair. When the Minister got up to reply, no one else rose; that is the reason my right hon. Friend spoke so early in the Debate. I am sure that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) does not wish me to answer his appeal or wish to enter into competition with my well-known gift for adjectives. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) asked about the composition of the consultative committee. It is a body of 40 members representing approved societies of every type. Six of them are representatives of trade union approved societies. The hon. Member asked me whether they approve of the Measure. The answer is "yes." He asked me if they approve this particular proposal. The answer again is "yes." With regard to numbers, when Mr. Campbell Stephen was pleading in this House for the first prolongation, he said that, although it was impossible to give the figures, he thought the number would be 100,000. The only figure we have is the number affected by the prolongation Act, and that is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80,000.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
This Bill is making things worse than the prolongation Act. Under that Act people were carried on after they had passed out of benefit. Now the eight-stamps condition is being imposed, and that must make conditions worse. The number must be 80,000 plus a number which cannot be defined at the moment.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the consultative committee is behind this Measure. Do I understand that it is unanimous in supporting this first Clause?
§ Mr. TINKER
After listening to the Debate on Second Reading and to-day, several points make themselves clear to me. I gather that a certain practice which has obtained since 1922 under the Act to prolong Health Insurance benefits is to be departed from. Under that Act, when people became unemployed there was a method of keeping them in National Health Insurance benefit until they got employment again. This Bill means that at the end of 1933 those who have had that right will lose it unless in the ensuing 12 months they can get eight stamps. This is an important departure from the recognised rights of insured people. When unemployment began to grow and we pleaded with the House that protection ought to be given to the unemployed person, we got an assurance that no one ever intended that the genuine unemployed, who would accept employment when they had the opportunity, would ever be debarred from having the right to Health Insurance, and successive Ministers have agreed to that. Now the National Government, on the grounds of economy and what is called the actuarial basis, is to alter that system. It is unfair for the National Government to take a step of this kind. It will add greatly to the burdens of the unemployed, and when these people who are daily trying to get work know that, because they cannot get work, they are to be deprived 70 of Health Insurance benefit, a serious position will arise. We have always assured them that while they are unemployed and their cards are franked at the Employment Exchanges, their Health Insurance rights will be retained.
In the mining industry over 300,000 men are out of work, whole villages are closed down, and there is no possibility of their getting work. The industry is becoming contracted, and the contraction will not stop short at 750,000 employés. That will mean that 400,000 people will never be employed in the industry again. Many of these have arrived at an age when they will never be able to get employment. This Bill means that their Health Insurance rights will pass away, some in 1933 and some between 1935 and 1936. One would have thought that the National Government would say to the unemployed: "We will protect all the rights that we can in the belief that our policy, that is, the policy of tariffs, will do something to bring about a better state in the employment market." There must be a failure of their policy for them to have to bring in this Bill. Like the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) I have got beyond the stage of pleading with the National Government. They will take advantage of their vast majority and do all they can further to depress the people who are down and out. I hope that we shall show our protest against the action of the Government by pressing this Amendment to a Division.
A wrong impression will be created by the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary. He told us that certain trade union approved societies which are represented on the Consultative Committee agree to this alteration. The way that the hon. Gentleman replied will lead the country to believe that the trade union movement generally is in sympathy with it. I want to deny that emphatically, and to say that if there be any trade union approved societies which have been pulled over the border line owing to the state of their funds, because of the operation of the National Health Insurance system, that is their business. The trade union movement and the Trades Union Congress, however, are definitely opposed to the principle of this Clause.
I would like hon. Members to know what this means to the miners. The 71 Clause proposes to take away from the unemployed man National Health Insurance benefit after a certain period. In the mining industry we have thousands of men who have contributed to insurance for 18 to 20 years, and many of whom have drawn no benefit. Now we have this tremendous breach of faith. Miners are being dismissed monthly and weekly, and it is fair to assume that there are a number of men of 50 to 60 years of age who will never find a place in the mining industry again, and will be thrown on the unemployed market, because at that age it is difficult for a miner to find employment in any other occupation. Now he will lose not only his medical benefit, his insurance benefit and maternity benefit—if that should be needed, though we can practically leave that out of account in the case of men of that age—but also lose his pension rights at 65, and will have to wait till 70 before he can claim an old age pension.
Bad as the Government have been, they have introduced nothing more reactionary and more unfair than this Clause, affecting a mass of working people who are the victims of circumstances over which they have no control. Among the thousands of miners receiving notice are many men who Buffered injury in the pits in past days and received compensation for a time. They have since resumed work in the industry at light tasks, but are being weeded out owing to their age and the contraction of work in the industry, and now they are going to be denied medical treatment which they may want as a result of their old injuries, although they have been paying contributions for perhaps 20 years. When all is said and done an unemployed man drawing unemployed benefit is no drag on the funds of a society. He cannot receive sick benefit whilst drawing unemployment benefit. Therefore I cannot see the reason for trying to remedy the actuarial position by attacking the men who will be affected by the sub-section. It is a most diabolical attack upon those who are, unfortunately, in the ranks of the unemployed.
In friendly societies and in voluntary organisations dealing with sickness the last thing that would be done would be to cast on one side a man who had been 72 a contributor for 20 years, and in this case we are dealing with thousands who have been permanent contributors, and many of whom have received no benefit. They have been paying under an understanding, in fact under Acts of Parliament, which said they would receive a pension at a certain age, and that their medical benefits should continue practically up to their death. Now we say that unless they have eight contributions in the last year before they are unemployed then, at a certain period, they will lose every benefit that health insurance gives. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this matter, because surely there can be ways and means of remedying it. If the actuarial basis must continue to be the foundation of our health insurance system there is still room to find a sounder basis than is to be achieved by taking off benefit thousands of men and women who are the victims of circumstances over which they have no control. I hope pressure will be brought to bear on the Minister to withdraw this Sub-section.
§ Mr. BATEY
Either I have seriously misunderstood the Minister or my colleagues have misunderstood him. To my mind the Minister made a most concise and clear statement saying that this sub-section meant that if an unemployed man had had his one period of free insurance he should not be entitled to repeat that free insurance period by the fact of his having one stamp on his card, but that he must have eight stamps. The difference between one stamp and eight stamps, does not warrant the Government putting this sub-section into the Bill. The Minister ought to tell us just how much the societies hope to save under this new sub-section by making the unemployed have eight stamps instead of one stamp. I cannot think the amount saved to the societies can be considerable. Some of the societies in industrial areas cannot be in a good way, but that consideration cannot apply to all the approved societies. For instance, I cannot believe that the Prudential Insurance Health Society have no surplus, or are in such a condition as to warrant the Minister making this alteration. It is not sufficient to say "This alteration has been agreed to by the representatives of the trade unions." It may be that the representatives of the trade unions came from areas where the socie- 73 ties are in a very bad way, and that would be the official line to be taken by the societies; but we have not only to think of that, but to think of the men who are unemployed and who will be affected.
Therefore, I feel that we should be warranted in setting aside the official mind of the representatives of those trade unions, and asking the Committee to concentrate attention upon the men who are unemployed. I would repeat what a colleague of mine has said, that this does not affect the societies so far as the payment of sickness benefit to the unemployed man is concerned, because an unemployed man, so long as he is able to work, cannot claim sickness benefit— he is entitled to unemployment benefit and not to sickness benefit—but it does affect the man so far as medical attendance is concerned. I wish to know whether the question of prolongation of insurance is brought into this Sub-section or not. I understood it was not, but if it is brought in under this Sub-section that is a very important matter to us, because in the County of Durham we have 50,000 or 60,000 unemployed miners, thousands of whom will never get work again. To them, and to us as their representatives, it is a most important question, and I hope we shall be able to discuss the prolongation of insurance in this Committee stage on a definite Amendment apart altogether from this Subsection.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I wish to refer to what has been said as to the necessity of maintaining this scheme on an actuarial basis. So far as I understand it none of these insurance schemes has ever been actuarially sound, because they were never devised to deal with emergencies such as we are faced with at the present time, when all the figures show a continuous increase, of an alarming character, in the numbers of the unemployed, and when none of the proposals of the National Government can touch the situation. The numbers of the unemployed rise by thousands a month, and it looks as though the proposals now submitted cannot remain sound for probably more than two or three months. Probably before long we shall be told that the insurance scheme is once more unsound, and must be dealt with by another 74 attack upon the benefits which up to now have been enjoyed by the contributors. This Bill provides no escape from the difficulties which confront us at the moment. I am not a coal miner, and I do not belong to a trade union, but I represent a great number of miners, many of whom have been unemployed for years, and many of whom will be deprived of all hope of participating again in the benefits of health insurance. Instead of the problem being attacked in this piecemeal fashion it should have been dealt with in a statesmanlike way. I do not believe that the nation cannot afford to deal with its unemployed who are sick. I believe that it can. Although we have such large numbers of unemployed people the aggregate of the wealth of individuals continually increases—
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was trying to point out that there is no necessity for curtailing benefits as the Bill proposes to do, and that if the Government had tackled the matter in a statesmanlike way the Bill would have been totally unnecessary. It is said that there has been a drain upon the Insurance Fund, in that the claims have increased. Of course there has. The mere fact of the industrial situation accounts for the increased illness. I doubt very much whether the increased illness is due to the leniency of doctors. Since the unemployed now number between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000, there must be a large increase of sickness. People who are perpetually kept at the lowest subsistence point are bound to become ill sooner or later, because illness strikes them with far greater intensity than if they were well-fed, well-clothed and well-housed. In those conditions you cannot expect that there will be any other result than the one which is to be seen to-day. I am not appealing—I never appeal—to the members of the Conservative Government. They do what they will, because they have the power to do it. I am only sorry that we have not a Labour Government to-day to tackle the problem. The Government will, of course, carry their Measure. It will strike terror to the hearts of thousands of people who will be affected by this 75 Measure, and who will see their last remaining hope of a bit of a pension at 65 years of age taken away. Thousands of them will see that. The Bill is punishing people for an offence which is not theirs and for which they are not responsible, but which has been brought about by the exigencies of a commercial system which the Government ought to be considering from every aspect and not from this particular point of view, in order to see whether they can provide
§ means whereby the poverty-stricken people of the country might be maintained in something like decency. Instead of that, at every stage those people are being punished because of their poverty.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'eight' in page 2, line 7, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 286; Noes, 38.77
|Division No. 227.]||AYES.||[6. 3 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cranborne, Viscount||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hudson. Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Albery, Irving James||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll)||Hunter, Or. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)||Davison, sir William Henry||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hunter-Weston, Lt. Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Dickie, John P.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Donner, P. W.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Doran, Edward||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Duckworth, George A. V.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Jamleson, Douglas|
|Balniel, Lord||Duggan, Hubert John||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Eastwood, John Francis||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Blindell, James||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Boulton, W. W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Briant, Frank||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Lees-Jones, John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Fox, Sir Gifford||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Levy, Thomas|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lewis, Oswald|
|Buchan, John||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Burghley, Lord||Gillett, Sir George Master man||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Burnett, John George||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Goff, Sir Park||Mabane, William|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Goldie, Noel B.||MacAndrew, Mai. C. G. (Partick)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro,W.)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Corn'll N.)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Grimston, R. V.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le Spring)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Maitland, Adam|
|Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Hales, Harold K.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hamilton, Sir R.W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Clarke, Frank||Hanbury, Cecil||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hanley, Dennis A.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Meller, Richard James|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Harris, Sir Percy||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey||Hartington, Marquess of||Millar, Sir James Duncan|
|Colville, John||Hartland, George A.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Mills, Major J. O. (New Forest)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mitchell, Sir W, Lane (Streatham)|
|Copeland, Ida||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale|
|Cowan, D. M.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Rosbotham, S. T.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Muirhead, Major A. J.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Tale, Mavis Constance|
|Munro, Patrick||Rothschild, James A. de||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Nunn, William||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Penny, Sir George||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Slater, John||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Pickering, Ernest H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Potter, John||Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Pybus, Percy John||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Storey, Samuel||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Strauss, Edward A.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Remer, John B.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Rentoul Sir Gervals, S.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lord Erskine and Mr. Womersley.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Price, Gabriel|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Thorne, William James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hirst, George Henry||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Buchanan, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||McGovern, John||Mr. Cordon Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out the word "eight," and to insert instead thereof the word "four."
I do not wish to tire the Committee by repeating the arguments which have been put forward against this Section as a whole. I think that hon. Members who listened to the general Debate that has taken place on the Sub-section will readily admit that, if this Clause goes through as it is, thousands of honourable, hard-working men, who have been contributors to the scheme for 20 years will be treated most harshly and very unfairly. The Minister told us that the only object that was in his mind regarding this Sub-section was a qualifying period. I mentioned in the earlier part of the Debate what effect the proposal will have upon the miners of the country, and other hon. Members have referred to other industries which are equally im- 78 portant. We should keep in mind not only that the contributor loses his medical benefit at a certain period after he becomes unemployed, but that he also loses his old age pension. That will be extremely hard. Hon. Members will agree that there are very large numbers of men who have been contributing to this scheme for years and who are now affected by the prevailing depression of industry. Many of us, when this old age pension was first included in our National Health Insurance scheme, saw the beginning of an epoch in which at least some provision was to be made for the old age of the men who had ceased to be able to give their best in industry.
Take the case of those men who will be affected if the Clauses stands as it is. My Amendment would at least lessen the blow to many of them. It would not clear the whole situation, but there might be a possibility of men dismissed from the 79 pits finding four weeks' work during the year, say in the summer, in some insurable industry, and, if it is Only a question of a qualifying period, we ask the Minister to accept this Amendment and make the period four weeks instead of eight. To get work for any long period may be exceedingly difficult for some men who are being dismissed from the pits at the moment—men with grey hairs, at which employers look askance, and men who have been working in a specific industry all their lives. If, however, the National Government have any hopes at all of their own policy, it might be possible for these men to get work in some other industry for a period of four weeks, and so qualify at least for an old age pension. I beg the Minister to accept this Amendment. If we are not to have any further free prolongation, he would, by accepting it, give an opportunity to a large number of men who are victims of circumstances, until the time comes, three or four years hence, for the Bill to be reviewed, when we trust there may be a possibility of industry improving.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I and my hon. Friends have an Amendment on the Paper to make the period two weeks, and I should like to ask whether it will be possible to discuss that Amendment?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will realise that, if the Committee decide that the word "eight" shall stand part of the Clause, he will not have an opportunity of moving his Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I did not know whether that would be how you would put it, but I suspected that it would. I rose because our Amendment raises the same principle as the Amendment which has just been moved, namely, that eight weeks is far too much, and that a lesser number of weeks ought to be substituted. The argument of the Minister on the previous Sub-section was briefly this: He said that one stamp, which might only represent one day's work, was not sufficient—that it was, in effect, no safeguard at all; and, therefore, he proposed that the number should be eight. We say, in reply, that a period of eight weeks, in times like these, is far too severe a test, and one which, for a very large number of people, is impossible of fulfilment. The Minister has carried his point that there 80 must be stamps for more than one week, and we ask by these Amendments that it should be either two or four. The Government have initiated a new policy. I read of a statement by one prominent Member of the Cabinet to the effect that it may take years for the policy of the Government to develop fully. He was referring to the question of tariffs, and he said that, with the present monetary position of Europe, the tariff policy may require a considerable time to produce its full effect. That is not an unreasonable thing to say. If you believe in tariffs, it is not unreasonable to claim that you are living in unique times, and that tariffs will need a long period in which to develop. The claim made for tariffs is not that they will abolish unemployment, but that they will bring a larger measure of prosperity to the common people.
In years like these, therefore, to impose a qualifying period of eight weeks under this Bill is not quite fair. Surely, an increase from one week to four weeks is stiff enough. It is increasing the period by 300 per cent., whereas to make it eight weeks would increase it by 700 per cent. Think what it means to get four weeks' work in some areas now. I see on the bench opposite the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace). He knows the mining district of Cowden-beath; it is in his constituency; and he knows how difficult it is for men 50 years of age to get four weeks' work there in a year like this. The Government, when times were good—far better than they are to-day—made the period one week; and that Government was not a Labour Government, but a Government largely composed of other elements. The times at present are terribly severe, and we ask the Minister, not to continue the period of one week, because the Committee have decided to make it more than one week, but we ask whether a period of two weeks could not be considered, or, if not two weeks, four weeks? Surely, such a qualifying period might be considered satisfactory in such terribly difficult times.
One of my arguments in favour of a reduction is that I always think that these weeks of test, to people who want to avoid them, are really no test at all; often they are only tests to the decent, honest folk. A stamp does not mean a week's work; it means a day's work; and I can imagine cute people arranging, 81 instead of working eight days straight off, which would only mean two stamps, to work on eight separate days in eight separate weeks, which would qualify them. [Interruption.] It could be done. These tests are very varying in their operation. We are not facing normal times now, even if the Government's tariff policy works out in three, four or five years, and even if it does part of what is claimed for it. To increase the period from one week to eight weeks is an arbitrary use of power at a time when people are dead up against it. In the case of Unemployment Insurance the umpire has ruled that almost every man in any trade like cotton, coal, iron and steel, who can get a week's work in a year, may be taken as being normally in insurable employment.
I ask the Minister, will he please try to give us some kind of real concession, something to show that, after all, he still retains some semblance of liberal thought in him? We are asking for a very mild concession when we ask that the period should be increased by 100 per cent. or by 300 per cent. A period of eight weeks might not have been so bad when the Act was passed because it was. not then impossible for miners, iron workers, steel workers and so on to get eight, 12 or 14 weeks' work in a year; but when things were good the period was only one week, and now, when things are bad, it is to be made eight weeks. The Parliamentary Secretary, when I asked him for figures, said he thought that 80,000 people would be affected. I think the number will be considerably larger, owing to the fact that these eight weeks will come in the last period of insurance. I wish someone would prove that I am wrong and the Parliamentary Secretary is right. However, he put the figure at 80,000, and I will take that figure for the moment. A reduction to four weeks would reduce the number to 50,000, and, if the period were two weeks, it would possibly be less than 30,000. Is that so?
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
As I have said, I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary's figure of 80,000 is correct, but that a considerable number will have to be added to it, but whether the figure be 80,000, or 100,000, or 120,000, it must be remembered that the period was 82 fixed at only one week at a time when the numbers affected were not so large. If I recollect aright, there were two Liberals in the Government which came to that decision, and two ex-Liberals are now deciding to make it eight weeks. There is nothing fundamental about a period of eight weeks, as against 16 on the one hand or four on the other. The figure is not based on any mathematical calculation. A. period of eight weeks does not mean that a man is decent, and a period of seven weeks or nine weeks does not mean that he is indecent; it is merely a question of trying to fix a figure in some fashion. Possibly they took it from Unemployment Insurance, where eight stamps are one of the conditions for transitional payment. There is nothing scientific in the number "eight." It might just as well be 10 or six. I submit that the increase of one to four or one to two is a sufficient penalty for these poor people.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The Amendment has been put forward so persuasively that it is with great reluctance that I find myself unable to meet the hon. Member's persuasion. I would do so without the least hesitation if I had the smallest doubt, but we have fixed here the minimum period that is necessary to secure the purpose which the establishment of any period is going to secure. The point is this. The extensions of insurance, as existing under the law and as increased by the Bill, are given in respect of a period of employment, and we have fixed them at the biggest that was possible in respect of a period of employment consistent with the maintenance of the solvency of the scheme. If you are to give a fresh concession, it cannot be in respect. of the old period of employment but, if you are to have a solvent scheme at all, in respect of a fresh period of employment, since you have to make sure that there is really some satisfactory evidence that the man or woman has gone into employment again. I ask the Committee without hesitation to agree that in requiring a period of eight weeks in a year we are requiring the very least that can possibly be looked upon as being evidence of a fresh period of employment. Let me make clear what the conditions are, because there was some little doubt about it on the previous discussion. The eight 83 weeks can be had at any time during the whole period of free insurance, in the period of 21 months or during the subsequent extended year. A man has very nearly three years. He has 33 months, but the eight weeks must all be in two consecutive half-years within the 33 months.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The eight weeks do not cover the year plus the year and nine months. The eight weeks must be done in a twelve-month.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
They must all come in a 12 months' period within the 33 months, otherwise they would be so thin that they would not come to any evidence of employment at all. Secondly—this gives me very great doubt whether we have gone far enough—the eight weeks, like the original one week, need not be weeks at all. Each one of the eight weeks need only be a day's employment. We are comparing like things with like and, just as originally a stamp could be had in respect of one week's employment, so now it can be had in respect of each of the eight weeks, but the actual employment need only be for one day in each week. So it is really only eight days' employment in the year that the man has to find.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
It would be extreme, but I think, when the Committee realise that, they will come to the conclusion that one has fixed very low indeed the requirement that a man has had a certain period of employment.
There is some doubt as to the numbers who will be affected by this. I cannot give any real statistical estimate. My information does not make that possible. But I can show the numbers in the class that can possibly be affected. The whole numbers of the class which could possibly be affected by this provision as to the eight weeks is 80,000, and that may increase a little in each following year. If the increase continues at the present rate, it will be about 10,000 a year, or rather less. But that 80,000 is the whole class that can be affected, and the number that will be affected is a comparatively small proportion of that number. It cannot in any case be the hundreds of thousands that have been referred to. I think the Committee will 84 come to the conclusion that we have fixed it at the very minimum that is practicable.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
In view of the gravity of the unemployment in the country, there is, indeed, a very great difference between being able to find four weeks and eight weeks work in 12 months. That will be obvious to anyone. I have heard it stated that employers who have visually employed very considerable numbers of workpeople could not now find employment for their own sons and daughters. We have reached that stage. Consequently there is a vast difference between four weeks and eight. There is a point that the Minister raised about which I am not yet quite clear. He seemed to imply on the last Amendment that the eight weeks would bring a person as a re-entrant into insurance, but it would not necessarily be the period for the continuation of a person's insurance. Perhaps that will be cleared up later. I hardly think the Minister meant to imply that eight weeks' contributions would keep the scheme solvent. That can hardly be the case. Eight weeks' contributions in respect of every insured person could not possibly keep the scheme solvent. These people will have to be helped from other sources in the approved societies.
I am not quite clear that one day's employment would secure a stamp, as the Minister said. Perhaps he will deal with that on the Clause as a whole. I hardly think that a day a week for eight consecutive weeks could be justifiably regarded as warranting a stamp on the card. I should be very glad to learn whether the present regulations provide for that. Lastly, I think there will be people who have been unemployed for a long period who could get a month's employment in the summer, at the seaside or probably on a farm, though it might be difficult to secure two months' employment. I thought the right hon. Gentleman would be in the position that Ministers are in very often of putting something in the Bill and keeping something up their sleeve to give away. I thought he might offer a compromise of, say, six weeks instead of eight. He has not done so and we are, therefore, compelled to press this Amendment to a Division.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The eight weeks are not connected with the now or old conditions as to re-entry. They are only a 85 condition, for requalifying for continuation for a further period while the man or woman is still in insurance. What follows from the eight weeks' requalification is a continuation of insurance for a further period. As to re-entry, the provisions of the Bill are different and it may be convenient to state them now. The requalification for pensions makes the new and large concession of 26 contributions instead of 104. As to re-qualification for full cash benefits, we make the considerable concession of a reduction, again, to 26 contributions. Otherwise, as to general re-entry after a man has gone out of insurance, matters remain as they are.
§ Mr. BATEY
It seems to me that the Minister has not made out as strong a case as he made out on the first Amendment. I understood his case much better then than I can now. He simply says he is clinging to the eight weeks in order to make sure that the man has entered into employment again. If a man can get eight stamps for eight days' work, there is not much satisfaction there to the Minister that he really is in employment again. That is a very weak argument and it leaves the case far from what one would think it ought to be. Why does the right hon. Gentleman cling to the figure "eight"? I remember years ago on the Unemployment Insurance Bill we had to deal with the figure of eight contributions. There seems to be a magic in the figure that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench get hold of and cling to. If there is really some definite, solid reason for eight contributions, the Minister should be able to tell us. I press him to tell us now to what extent it is expected that the societies will benefit by substituting "eight" for "four." One of the supporters of the Government on the last Amendment mentioned £20,000. Unless we are told, we are at a very big disadvantage. If the Minister condescends to tell the Committee the amount, I think that he should go further and give the reason for the Sub-section and the eight stamps. He must forgive some of us if we are a little suspicious and believe that the proposal is a stepping-stone towards relieving the Treasury. We are somewhat doubtful whether it is for the purpose of benefiting the societies. We said on the former Amendment that we believed that some of the societies—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now getting rather wide of the Amendment, which merely deals with the number of stamp qualifications required, either eight or some other number, and not with the whole principle of the Subsection.
§ Mr. BATEY
I agree that that is the object and I am trying to argue along those lines. I wish the Minister to say what it will mean to the societies, because we are pressing our Amendment in favour of four contributions, while the Minister is insisting upon eight. I believe that the surpluses of some of the societies would warrant the Minister in agreeing to four contributions instead of eight. We are a little suspicious that, although the Minister may say that the object is to help the societies, it is the Treasury that he has in his mind's eye and that will ultimately reap the benefit. I ask the Minister to tell the Committee how much money is at stake, and whether the Government are warranted in sticking to eight instead of adopting four?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I understood from the reply of the Minister to the Mover of the Amendment and to my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that there was little likelihood of the Government making any concessions upon the matter. Therefore, in rising to add my persuasions to those which have gone before, I have not a great deal of hope, but it is somewhat humiliating that we should have to come and beg here to maintain the most unfortunate section of the community with the minimum amount of service from the State in the matter of their health. It is about a couple of years since the present Prime Minister referred to our incomparable system of social services, and said that there was nothing to compare with them in any part of the world. It is true that for nearly a quarter of a century this system of health insurance and old age pensions has been slowly built up, and each party in the State separately has put some mark upon it. It was initiated by a Liberal Government. The Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory portion was added by a Conservative Government, and the Labour Government made certain emendations. Now in these advanced days, after 20 odd years of progress in industry, commerce, technique 87 and social benevolence, a combination of these three parties, Liberal, Conservative, and Labour, are engaged in whittling it away.
The proposition to which we are addressing ourselves at the moment is whether a person who is so unfortunate as to be unable to get eight weeks' employment and the consequent health insurance stamps, is to be dropped entirely out with the ken of our national social services. The proposal of the National Government is that when a man has been so unfortunate as to be unable to get eight weeks of employment in the preceding 12 months, the State takes no more concern for his health, or for his widow, or orphans, if he should die. It is a very shocking proposition. It may be said, "The Government have decided upon this and we cannot prevent it." But we ask the Minister if he will not substitute a shorter period to maintain the man in his rights. Our old friend, the marginal case which we know in all these systems, is going to be particularly hit in this business. The benevolent landowner, if there is such a person outwith the pages of fiction, can easily say to the unemployed man in his village, "Come up and do a bit in my garden and I will attach the necessary stamp to your card," or the benevolent lady of the house can say, "Come up and clean the widows or scrub the floor, and you will get a. Health Insurance stamp." But unless a person can get eight weeks, or eight benevolent, charitable assistances of this peculiar description, if he achieves only seven of these, he is without any social protection whatever in the matter of has health. As far as national organisation is concerned, he has no protection whatever, and he has, somehow or other, if he is to enter into the ordinary social machinery of the country, to achieve the almost impossible feat of getting 26 weeks' employment before he can come back into standing once more. We think that that is terrible. The answer of the Minister presumably means that it cannot be helped. The country has come to a pretty pass—
§ Mr. MAXTON
The hon. Member says "It has," but it is obvious that he cannot place the major share of responsibility upon my shoulders nor upon the men for whom I am pleading. If the hon. Member brought forward some device for making the people who were really responsible pay, he might find in me a very enthusiastic supporter of the proposition. When he asks me to agree that the country is in a terrible plight and that therefore the man who has beer unemployed to the extent that he has not had eight weeks' employment should shoulder the responsibility for it, he is asking me to do something with which I cannot agree. I may often be accused of being a sentimentalist, but it is not my heart which revolts against doing this sort of thing; it is my intelligence. It would be no use any Government saying to me that a country in dire distress could be saved by a hard, strong Minister refusing to substitute two for eight weeks in this particular case. I can foresee a tremendous amount of social misery involved in the Clause which may affect 80,000 people on the estimate made by the Minister, and I can see no economic salvation for the nation. I add my appeal to the appeals already made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and hon. Members above the Gangway in asking the Minister not to put those 80,000 people out with the social law, and make them outcasts for whom no man is prepared to lift his hand, and certainly, if he insists upon doing it, not to do it in the name of financial necessity. Say that you are trying to catch shirkers, or that you are trying to establish a new morality among the sick so that they shall not continue to be as sick as they are just now. Give some excuse which reasonable people can accept, but do not tell us that this is a device for saving the nation in its hour of financial difficulty.
§ Question put, "That the word 'eight' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 283; Noes, 40.91
|Division No. 228.]||AYES.||[6.59 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Atholl, Duchess of|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T.(Leeds, W.)||Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Atkinson, Cyril|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Balniel, Lord||Ganzoni, Sir John||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Gledhill, Gilbert||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Gluckstein, Load Halle||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Goff, Sir Park||Munro, Patrick|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Goldie, Noel B.||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Blindell, James||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.)||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Grimston, R. V.||Nunn, William|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Briant, Frank||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Brocklebank, C. E R.||Hales, Harold K.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Hanbury, Cecil||Pearson, William G.|
|Buchan, John||Hanley, Dennis A.||Penny, Sir George|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Harris, Sir Percy||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Burnett, John George||Hartington, Marquess of||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Hartland, George A.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Potter, John|
|Carver, Major William H.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A.(Birm., W)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Chapman, Sir. Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hurd, Sir Percy||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Remer, John S.|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Clarke, Frank||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jamieson, Douglas||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Colville, John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Kimball, Lawrence||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Copeland, Ida||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Knatchbull, Captain Hon, M. H. R.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Law, Sir Alfred||Selley, Harry H.|
|Cranborne Viscount||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lees-Jones, John||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Croom-Johnson, R. p.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Slater, John|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Levy, Thomas||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lewis, Oswald||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Liddall, Walter S.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Llewellin, Major John J.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Dickie, John P.||Mabane, William||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Donner, P. W.||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||McKie, John Hamilton||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Maitland, Adam||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Elmley, Viscount||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mars)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Martin, Thomas B.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Meller, Richard James||Train, John|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Fox Sir Gifford||Milne, sir John S. Wardlaw||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitcheson, G. G.||Wallace John (Dunfermline)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Wells, Sydney Richard||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Weymouth, Viscount||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||Withers, Sir John James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley||Sir Frederick Thomson and Mr. Womersley.|
|Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Wills, Wilfrid D.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Price, Gabriel|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Thorne, William James|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, George Henry||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cove, William G.||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||McGovern, John||Mr. Groves and Mr. Cordon|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Macdonald.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maxton, James|
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move in page 2, line 37, to leave out from the word "that," to the word "he," in line 39.
I wish to make it clear at the outset that I am moving this Amendment very largely in order to secure an explanation from the Minister as to what this part of the Bill really means. If the Committee will look at the bottom of page 2 they will find a Clause which is as complicated as the English language can make it. The only explanation I can find is that whenever we deal with an amendment of the principal Act, we are always told to turn to a later Act of Parliament in order to find out exactly what it means. I find in the Memorandum which has been issued by the Minister explaining this Bill, the words:Certain other Amendments of Section 3 of the National Health Insurance Act, 1924, are included in the Bill, the principal changes being as follows:And then the words I am going to quote deal exclusively with Sub-section (4) of the Bill. This Is the explanation:(i) A person who has ceased to be entitled to health insurance cash benefits by reason of unemployment and is still insured, will, if he re-enters insurable employment before the end of 1935, be reinstated in full health insurance by 26 weeks of insurable employment and payment of 26 contributions instead of a period of 104 weeks and a payment of 104 contributions which are the ordinary conditions for a re-entrant.That would appear, of course, as if the Government were very kindly disposed to the persons referred to in this Clause, but when I turn to Section 3 of the principal Act which is now to be amended, 92 I find that the insured person there referred to is a person of 60 years of age and upwards. He has certain benefits conferred upon him under the principal Act if he has been insured for 10 years or upwards, but the same Clause deprives him of certain cash benefits under the Clause. Then I come back to page 6 of the Memorandum and I find the following:The special extension of insurance year by year up to the age of 65, which is given to insured persons who ceased to be employed at an advanced age, is made applicable to persons who were 60 years of age at the end of their first period of free insurance instead of, as at present, at the date of cessation of employment.That is a point which, I think, is germane to what I am putting before the Committee. This has the effect of extending this concession to persons of from 58 to 58½ years' of age instead of 60 who cease to be employed. We are now proposing to reduce the age from 60 to 58½ or 58 so as to give an addition of about two years to the old person who has been unemployed for a long period.
Having said that, I would very much like the Minister to explain to us what some of these words actually mean. I am glad to see that there is a legal gentleman on the Front Bench, and I should very much like him to take part in the Debate and explain what the words mean. If the Committee will bear with me, I will read part of the Section as it will stand when we have amended it, and it will be very interesting if the right hon. Gentleman will get up and explain exactly what it means. 93Provided that a person who remains insured by virtue only of this Sub-section shall not be entitled to sickness benefit or disablement benefit and if he again becomes employed within the meaning of this Act, or becomes a voluntary contributor, he shall he treated for the purposes of any benefit to which ho had ceased to be entitled as if he had not previously been insured, subject to this qualification that, if he so again became employed before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, he shall only be so treated until he has been so employed during twenty-six contribution weeks, whether continuously or not, and twenty-six contributions have been paid by or in respect of him.Now that is a bunch of "so's" and I should like to know exactly what it all means. I thought I knew something about Health Insurance, but the Government are really making the thing almost impossible of understanding. I do not want to put it too strongly, but I sometimes wonder whether all we are getting by way of concession is a lot of words and nothing else. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us exactly what this Clause means; whether in dealing with the person who is 58 years of age, instead of helping him from the age of 60, he is giving him an advantage with one hand and taking something away from him with the other? In the previous Debate it was clearly proved that what the Minister was trying to do was to explain the great gifts that the unemployed were getting from the Government, when in fact the unemployed are treated very much worse under this Bill than before. Will he tell us in as simple a form as he can, so that an ordinary layman like myself can understand, exactly what this Sub-section means?
§ Mr. LEWIS
I oppose the Amendment on two grounds, in the first place because it appears to me to be unnecessary. I suggest that it is unnecessary because the words are inserted in the Bill to meet the exceptional state of widespread unemployment with which we are unhappily faced at this moment. There are two possibilities before the Committee. One is that by the end of 1935 the present depression will have largely passed away and the great mass of unemployment as we know it to-day will be a thing of the past. If that possibility eventuates, the real reason for this concession will have passed away and, therefore, the Amendment to extend it beyond 1935 is unnecessary. There is a further possibility that 94 we have to face and that is that that improvement in conditions will not eventuate, that we may still be faced with figures of unemployment comparable with those of to-day. If that state of affairs were to exist then at the end of 1935 there would be no money available in the fund to continue this concession. Therefore, again, the Amendment to continue it would be unnecessary. I object to the Amendment also on the ground that it is in itself objectionable. If hon. Members will turn to the speech made by the Minister on the Second Reading of the Bill, they will find that he used these words:The House will ask why I end at 1935. The reason, is that there is then due, under the Statutes, a general actuarial review of all the conditions and circumstances of National Health Insurance. That will give whoever is in charge at the time an opportunity of reviewing the situation and seeing what it is as regards prolongation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1932; col. 1939, Vol. 265.]On these grounds, it is most desirable that we should not seek to tie the hands of the Minister, whoever he may be at that time, by extending the concession before that date, as when the time comes he will be in a much better position to know whether such a concession is necessary or possible than anyone can be at the present moment. On the grounds that the Amendment is not necessary and that if it were necessary it is objectionable, I hope the Committee. will vote against it.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has asked me for a simple, explanation of what the Clause means. Speaking as one layman to another, I will try to do it. He will understand that the Act of 1924 makes provision for insured persons who are unemployed and are over 60 years of age. The technical meaning of the wording of the Sub-section is this, that it widens that provision by bringing within its scope persons who reach the age of 60 and have had 10 years insurance before they enter the extended year under Section 3 (3) of the Act. The concession is thus extended to include persons who are about 58¼ years of age to 60 years of age on ceasing to be employed. The point that has arisen is that, in the event of a person in this class becoming employed again he is, as under the present law, treated for the 95 purposes of entitlement to sickness and disablement benefits as if he had not been previously insured. Section 4 provides that if he returns to employment before 1st January, 1936, until which date the special concessions are to be given to the genuinely unemployed persons, he will be able to qualify for full rates of benefit by 26 weeks of insurable employment instead of by 104 as normally required. The hon. Member will, therefore, see that what it is possible to do by way of concession for a transitional arrangement it is not possible to do by way of permanent arrangement to be put into the permanent structure of the scheme. That is, I hope, a simple and accurate explanation of what the Clause means.
One word about the Amendment. The effect of the Amendment if carried would be to translate what is a transitional provision giving this concession to the group of persons under 60 years of age and over 58¼ years, for a temporary period up to 1936, into a part of the permanent structure of the Bill. When I saw the hon. Member's name attached to the Amendment and remembered his great knowledge of approved society work, I was rather surprised to see it there. After this information, I hope that he will be able to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
After that explanation the hon. Member probably will not be surprised that I am going to withdraw the Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment I call stands in the name of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood)—in page 3, line 15, to leave out the word "thirty-five," and to insert instead thereof the word "forty."
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There are other Amendments standing in our names, and I would like to know whether we can discuss them on this Amendment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I understood that the hon. Member did not desire to move the previous Amendment.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am willing that we should discuss a series of questions if they belong to the same family. In the Amendment which follows the one which the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is about to move, we come to the question of the age of the person. Later on we come to an Amendment as to whether the person referred to should have medical benefit or not. I thought that the Amendment dealing with medical benefit might be reserved for special discussion.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I agree that it would be a good thing to have one general discussion on the principle, but I want to be sure what Amendment we are covering. It is suggested that we should take a general discussion on the principle of prolongation and reserve the question of prolongation of medical benefit for special discussion.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I shall be glad of the guidance of the Minister. There is an Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson)—in page 3, line 16, to leave out from the word "shall," to the word "not," in line 18. I do not know whether that is a question of prolongation or not. If it is, it might be discussed on this Amendment, but if it raises the question of medical benefit, it should be reserved.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
That raises the question of prolongation of maternity benefit. It is, therefore, a particular aspect of prolongation.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Before the hon. Member moves his Amendment we had better be clear on the position. As I understand it, this Amendment covers prolongation.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
To a large extent the question of prolongation and maternity benefit could be discussed on this Amendment, reserving to hon. Members the right to divide. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson)—to leave out the word "thirty-three" and to insert instead thereof the word "forty," 97 will be covered by this Amendment. If the Committee decide that the word "thirty-five" is to stand part, that Amendment could not be moved. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Hicks)—in page 3, line 19, to leave out the word "thirty-three" and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty-five"— will be covered by this discussion on prolongation, but a Division can be taken on that Amendment if so desired. That will leave the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies)—in page 3, line 20, to leave out the words "medical benefit or"—to be discussed as a separate point. If that is agreeable to the Committee, I will ask the hon. Member for Gorbals to move his Amendment.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, in page 3, line 15, to leave out the word "thirty-five" and to insert instead thereof the word "forty."
We want to make the year before which a person can be automatically passed out of insurance 1940 instead of 1935. The Bill safeguards the pension rights of those unfortunate people who are a long time out of work. It safeguards widows' pension rights and old age pension rights until 1935, but at the end of that period they must qualify as complete new entrants into health insurance. The position is that by 1935 the various concessions given in regard to eight stamps and re-entry at 26 weeks will disappear, and the people will have to be dealt with in 1935 as if they were new entrants and must again qualify, with the exception of those who are 58¼ years of age. One of the reasons was given by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), that in 1935 there is to be a review of the financial position, but I am not so sanguine in regard to this matter as the hon. Member. Once this House departs from the present position I have grave doubts about another Health Insurance Bill or old age pensions between now and 1935. Once we let the present Act go many people who are out of insurance in 1935 will be out for good, unless they can qualify as new entrants. I have no faith of the Government introducing a fresh Measure between now and 1935, and therefore we are faced with this possi- 98 bility that those people who are covered by the prolongation scheme must definitely go out of health insurance and also out of old age pensions and widows' pension rights as well. We have now come to this stage. In the early portion of the Bill we have punished the sick and the more unfortunate. Now the Government are attacking the right of the unfortunate man's widow and family to old age pensions. I am surprised that this aspect of the case has not received more attention. Every one knows, and no one better than the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, that those people who will have to be maintained because of long unemployment will be the poorest of the poor. When you deprive them of widows' pensions and old age pensions they must be maintained in some other form or by some other institution.
The Government are now proposing that after 1935 what is now a partial national burden shall be entirely a local burden. It means that the poorest of the poor, the widows and their children, instead of being a partial national burden, will become a burden on local rates. At the present moment a widow gets what is admitted is not a sufficient income to keep herself and her family. She gets 10s. for herself, 5s. for the first child, and 3s. for each subsequent child, or an income of 21s. per week for a widow and three children. That is not sufficient to maintain them, and so she seeks to augment that income from either of two sources, the Poor Law, or work. Many of them to their credit get part-time employment either early in the morning or late at night in order to bring their income up to a point at which it will maintain those who are dependent upon her. This Bill hits the widow, the very poorest. In some cases the man is sick for a long time, and the wife has had to maintain her husband and family. In so doing she may have accumulated a number of contributions over a series of years, but no attention is to be paid to that. The husband may have been sick excessively long, or what is regarded as excessively long; he has been unemployed, and now this arbitrary figure comes along and there is to be no widow's pension in the case of his death. Why this should be done I do not know.
The Minister of Health cannot argue that it is a saving of money. He may 99 argue that it makes the fund a little more actuarially sound, but he cannot argue that it saves money, because someone has to maintain them, and in nearly all these cases these people will become a charge upon local funds. Indeed, I doubt whether it is a saving of money to transfer this burden from the National Exchequer to local authorities. I should say that it is increasing the expenditure, and for this reason. Take a widow with 21s. and three children. You take that 21s. from her because her husband has been unemployed for so long. What happens? She only gets 10s. from the Poor Law, and, if she earns another 10s. herself, she gets £1; and it must be remembered that she cannot earn more than her Poor Law relief. Therefore, the widow who has been able to maintain herself and relieve public funds because she has been able to work, now gets no pension and is thrown completely upon local funds. It cannot be argued that this is to save money. It is those people who are unemployed for five or six years who will most certainly come upon the Poor Law. Now you are saying that any little chance they may have of raising themselves up is to be entirely taken away.
There is also the question of maternity benefit. Everyone, be he Labour or Tory, deplores the high death-rate in childbirth. I suggest, quite seriously, that if the State could guarantee a small sum of money at such a material time, it would lessen the death-rate in maternity cases. I have a brother who is a medical practitioner with a large panel practice, and he tells me that the greatest problem among the poor people is not medicine but worry about income at these times, when perhaps the man and wife have been both out of work for a long time. Anything which takes away from the income of a family at such a time in my view tends to make the calling of giving birth to children more dangerous than it is now. At all events we should safeguard the maternity benefit. I cannot understand the Government's proposal in regard to old age pensions. The Prime Minister built up a national reputation on a great appeal which he made a few years ago. I remember the Labour Government of 1924. At that election there was exhibited a great poster about the Prime Minister being the friend of the widow and the orphan. Now this 100 National Government proposes to take away the pensions of the widows and their children. And let me point this out, that at the present moment approved societies have power to deal with those insured persons who are not acting in a straightforward manner. If a man has been two years unemployed they can pass him out of insurance. If they think he is a criminal, they have powers to deal with him. They can say that he has ceased to be insurable; and sometimes they exercise these powers. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and I have had a long correspondence upon this point, because some approved societies have exercised this right. Up to the present time they have had all the power they need to deal with such matters.
I have no doubt the Minister's reply will be, "We will see what the financial position is in 1935."The Minister knows, and I know, that these Measures are not going to be improved on in the next 10 or five years, so I hope he will not make the excuse that in 1935 there is to be an improvement. If this Amendment is not carried, the Government will be punishing terribly poor people, unfortunate people who are almost without a friend and almost outside the pale of mankind. If they were criminals they would be treated better. Society has to take note of its criminals. I came from Manchester to-day, and I saw two criminals. One happened to know me and shouted to me. They were being taken from Manchester to London by six warders. Every one of those eight fares had to be paid. Those were two criminals, and society had to take note of them. But in the case of decent poor people who remain unemployed society does not worry. It says, in effect: "Die, you are costing us money. We will withdraw your means of sustenance from you and leave you to the Poor Law. Go to the Poor Law and see how much you can get." You do not touch a man when he dies because he is dead. Even this National Government has not invented a way of punishing the dead. But to the poor unfortunate widow the Government say: "You married a man who was idle for some years, and we will punish you." Could there be anything more unfair than punishing children because they happen to have had a certain kind of father, or a women because she happens to have married a particular 101 type of man? We ask for the date 1940 to be inserted, because there will be an election between now and then, and on this great human issue the people have a right to decide. I think that this Clause reaches the limit of inhumanity. It is a Clause for which the Government never had any mandate, and I ask the Committee to reject it.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Before we part with the Amendment, I think the Minister might give us his views on the remarks that have been made. I wish to deal with the connection of 1935 with maternity benefit, because the two hang together. Medical benefit and additional benefit are connected with 1933. There is, indeed a very strong argument in favour of maintaining maternity benefits in this case. If I understand the position aright, under the original Act the person referred to in the Clause with which we are now dealing was deprived only of sickness and disablement benefit. Consequently we are in the stage that under the original Act this class of person with whom we are dealing now was deprived of sickness and disablement benefit only; he was entitled to maternity benefit and medical benefit and additional benefit. Those are in connection with the National Health Insurance scheme. What wo are really doing now is to deprive him of these three benefits. In the ease of maternity benefit, we are taking the benefit from the wife of the insured person. As one who has had to deal with the administration of these benefits, I know of no benefit which is as valuable as maternity benefit. There are sickness benefits, disablement benefit, and additional benefits of all kinds, dental, optical, surgical appliances and so on. This Committee ought to do all it can to safeguard the maternity benefit at any rate. More depends upon this benefit than on any other. The cost of confinement is simply colossal in some towns that I know. I wish that the Minister would rise to the occasion. Apart from partisanship, I think that on this issue he might agree to the Amendment so that we can save the maternity benefit for a few years longer than that provided in the Bill
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I will do my best to put this matter in what appears to me to be a truer perspective than that left 102 by the speeches to which we have listened. The position is that under the existing state of the law, unless we do something about it, at the end of this year all those whose insurance has been prolonged from time to time will go completely and abruptly out of insurance, to the number of 80,000. Therefore, some action has to be taken if the whole of those who, owing to unemployment, have been unable to maintain their contributions, are not to go out of insurance at the end of the year. I am not making any pretence but simply putting a plain fact when I put this forward as a salvage Measure to save the position for these persons. How about principles? I approached the matter by accepting two principles; first of all, that the fund shall be financially solvent, and secondly, that it is a contributory fund. It is not a State service apart from the contributors themselves. It is a contributory fund and there is a relation between contribution and benefits.
On those principles what I have done, as I stated on Second Reading, is that I have sought to see what is the utmost limit to which one can go financially in order to help and prolong the insurance of those who are unemployed, consistent with the maintenance of those two fundamental principles. It was suggested on an earlier Amendment that I was keeping something up my sleeve in order to make concessions. No, that was not the spirit in which the Government approached this Measure. That would have been the spirit if one had not believed that everything that could be done ought to be done for the unemployed. We have approached the matter from the point of view that everything that can be done it is the duty of the Government to do. For that reason into the Bill has already been put the utmost limit of what can be squeezed out of the finances of the fund and of the country in order to assist the unemployed, consistently with the maintenance of the two principles of solvency and contributions.
As to the particular Amendment, in relation to prolongation of pension rights, there has been a, particularly big extension, the biggest extension that is possible in keeping with the strictest financial solidity and actuarial propriety. We have not only saved the pension rights 103 for the coming year but for the two following gratuitous years. That is specifically for the purpose of saving their rights to the pensioners during a sufficiently long period to give us time to see whether things do not get better, and so enable them to save their rights by the best of all methods, by their being able to save them themselves by employment. The cost of that very big financial concession of three additional years of pension rights will be a burden on the Exchequer estimated as in the neighbourhood of £450,000. How can I do that without making provision for it in the Estimates? Only because the reserves of the pension fund are still sufficiently big to make it possible for us to accept that additional obligation without any further immediate provision. But I ask the Committee to observe the state of our general finances. In order to meet our pensions obligations our funds will consume an additional £1,000,000 every year. When considering the formidable nature of the financial obligations which we have already confronted I ask the Committee to say that the Government have not been parsimonious or harsh in the matter, but that, on the contrary, they have gone to the limit of prudence.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman said about the additional £1,000,000.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The advancing of the pensions account, that is the contributory pensions account, takes an additional £1,000,000 from the Exchequer annually in order to keep it solvent. I am speaking from memory. Let me remind the Committee, in order to rebut the charge of harshness, of the very substantial concession which is made in another direction. It is that concession to which I referred on Second Reading when I said that I thought that what we ought to do for the unemployed who, through no fault of their own, must inevitably lose their pension rights, even after all these concessions to which I have referred, was to make it as easy as possible for them to get back their pension rights even after they go out of insurance. That has been done by reducing tine number of contributions which will be required to re-establish pension rights from 104 to 26—again a very large and important concession of 104 which we must not lose sight if we are to take into account the whole picture. The opinion has been expressed in these Debates on pension matters that the case which most needs consideration is the case of the old person who comes out of insurance at an age which is too great to enable him to get back into work again. To meet that case we have used up a little more of the margin which we were able to find on the pensions account in order to cut down the qualifying age for the continuance of pension rights up to 65, from 60 years to 58¼ years so that from the age of 58¼ years onwards, quite apart from the question of insurance, instead of from the age of 60, the elderly person will preserve his pension rights intact until 65.
Turning to the case of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), let me say a few words on the subject of maternity benefit. Here we come to a totally different series of considerations. The finance which I have been considering up to now has been that in connection with the question of pensions—the finance of the pensions account. Now I come to the finance of health insurance where we have to maintain an actuarial balance between contributions and benefits. Let me state once more the general situation. A deficit is running against the fund at the rate of £2,850,000 a year. That is what I have to make up in order to save the solvency of the fund, and that it is proposed to make up in ways which we shall discuss later. But when I have made it up, I have no elbow room, no margin for concessions of any sort or kind from revenue as regards health insurance. On the contrary, as we shall see later, the criticism that might be directed against the Bill is that we are taking too optimistic a view of the future and that we have not gone far enough in cutting and trimming in order to establish the solvency of the fund.
There is no margin of revenue that I can find with which to continue such matters as maternity benefit but the ingenuity of actuaries and experts has discovered that, without harm you can for a single occasion, to use a popular word "sweat" the reserve values of the scheme which are in the nature of the capital of the scheme, to the extent of £50,000. That can be done, as I say, for once in a way, for one year only, as a legitimate increase in the capital account of the 105 scheme but I am bound to repeat with emphasis that it is not coming out of revenue. That £50,000 we are using to give one more year of medical benefit to the unemployed who would otherwise come out of medical benefit altogether at the end of 1932. When it is used to extend benefit in those cases to the end of 1933, I have not one penny left for the extension of maternity or any other benefit.
I have not any money for any cash benefits during that extended year 1933. I cannot find anything on the cash benefit side of the account and maternity benefit as we know is a cash benefit. All I can do is to find just enough to finance the most essential service, that is the medical service for the unemployed for the one additional year, and I think the Committee will agree that that is the proper way to use this small sum which we are able to screw out of the capital amount of the fund. The question is, therefore, not of extending maternity benefit because there is no possibility of doing so. There is no other cash which I can find for the purpose and as I say the criticism which might be directed against me is that of taking a too optimistic view in using this £50,000. Nevertheless I am confident that we are right in looking upon this as a situation in which we ought to do everything we can to tide over suffering and hardship and maintain to the utmost the welfare of the unemployed during this waiting and watching period. I think in using this £50,000 in the manner I have indicated we are doing the right thing under present conditions.
Finally, I do not think that the hon. Member for Gorbals is justified in saying that we can never expect any improvement. I am more of an optimist than he is and I have actually made provision in the Bill for putting things back, for removing these restrictions, when opportunity enables us to do so and when those who are responsible in the future for the Health Insurance Fund are able to take a more cheerful view of its finances. For instance, the provisions in relation to arrears in the Bill are so drafted that it will be possible to take action of the kind I have indicated in the future, should the opportunity of doing so arise. That, I think, is the right view to take—that we should be able to remove these restrictions if and when the state of the country and in consequence the state of the fund 106 enable us to do so. At the present moment however the question for us is not one of unnecessary hardship and restriction. The question is the immediate urgency of Measures to prevent the breakdown of the scheme as a whole. We have to preserve the rights of 17,000,000 contributors to the scheme who are entitled to the assurance that Parliament will preserve the schemes to which they are contributors in a solvent state and on a contributory basis.
§ Mr. KIRKW00D
Any unbiased person who did not know what was going on in this country, after listening to the Minister's speech, would go away with the idea that this Amendment is detrimental to the interests of the working class and particularly the unemployed. The Minister is becoming expert at making it appear that we on this side are responsible for all the troubles to which the body politic is heir at the present time. He throws all responsibility on to the Labour party, or on to any party other than his own. But the present Government have the honour of being the Government of this country, and with that honour goes responsibility, and it is no use for the Minister to try to make the country believe that this National Government is a nice kind philanthropic Government. He said that everything that could be done for the unemployed had been done. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) remarked, quite truly, that the Government had done everybody they could, but that was not what the Minister meant.
The Minister in his last utterance distinctly suggested that the Government were dealing generously with the unemployed and that the unemployed were being treated as fairly as other sections of the community. I see men moving about here who have never worked in their lives, whose fathers before them never did an honest day's work, and yet who live in the lap of luxury. These men never wanted for their breakfasts. The essentials of life have never been cut off from them or theirs. They are still getting three square meals a day. I wish the unemployed were getting that. I wish that those of the working class who are at work were getting it never mind the unemployed. If they were, we would 107 not see so many undersized men in our great industrial centres, but it is not true that the unemployed are being dealt with fairly. The employed workers are not being dealt with fairly.
The Minister says that he is making the best of things and trying to safeguard the interests of the individuals concerned by being able to spread this concession over until 1935. We are asking him to continue it for five years longer. But he tries to make the Committee believe that we are letting these folk down and he is their saviour—a Daniel come to judgment. He says further that pensions are using up £1,000,000 a year. If he thinks that that is going to have any effect on the Labour side of the House, or at any rate on those for whom I can speak, he never made a bigger mistake. That holds no terrors for us—neither one million nor many million pounds that will be disbursed in this fashion to ease folk when they are up against it—when we know that the war-mongers, those who lent money to carry on the War, are walking away with £1,000,000 a day in interest for doing nothing, simply because they lent this country the bawbees. Not only that, but they would have, not merely a revolution, but a bloody revolution, if we suggested paying them off in 1935.
This is a mysterious business, because they have told us time and time again that the money is not there. I have Listened to all the experts who have told us all about this wonderful monetary system of ours, and that there never was as much money here or anywhere else, yet we are paying them £1,000,000 a day. The first charge on the industry of this country is that £1,000,000 a day, and then you talk about the means test. If ever there was a mean action, that is it. When a Minister rises so calmly in this House and talks, as the Minister of Health has talked, quite confidently, as if it all was better than well and as if he was not dealing with a problem that represents tens of thousands of people who are suffering agonies untold, when he is dealing with unemployment insurance or any part of it—[Interruption.] It is no use the hon. Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) thinking that this is an easy business, when you have maternity benefit threatened here.
108 We are told quite calmly again by the Minister that this is something that they had just conceded in a moment of generosity, but that the country now cannot afford it. That is the sum total of what he said. "No matter how willing I may be," he said, "we cannot afford it. I have only a certain amount of money to disburse, and I have to make the best of it." I am not finding fault with the Minister as such, as a man, but I am finding this fault with him, just as I have done with every Minister in every Government under which I have sat here, that when he knows perfectly well that the conditions with which he is dealing are awful and that the position that he is putting up does not ease them one bit, he merely says that the money that he has to disburse is not enough. That has always been my quarrel with the Ministers of Health, except the one that we had in the late Member for Shettleston, John Wheatley. All the rest of them have used their ability—and the present Minister has outstanding ability—in order to try to justify a dirty Government, and this is one of the dirtiest Governments that ever held sway in this country, because here they are again cheeseparing.
They say that they are up against it, that there never was such a state of affairs in Britain before, with poverty rampant in the land, that they do not know what to do to find employment for our folk; and what do they do in these circumstances? They attack the weakest section of the community. Why do they not go, if they are short of cash, to those who render no services, to those who lent the money to carry on the War? There is where it is. I told Snowden, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, that the only place where he could get the money was where it is, and that he had to take it from those who have it. I want the Minister of Health not to use his ability as he is doing now. I want him to use his ability and his sage experience in financial matters—because not only in this country but in many countries his advice has been asked—to give our country the benefit of his experience and ability, to go before his Cabinet and tell his Cabinet that the money that he has got to enable him to be responsible for the health of the people of this country is not sufficient. He has admitted it in 109 so many words, yet there he sits, and he is accepting the responsibility for the health of the people of this country, because that is what this House holds him responsible for, and I hope that we are not going to designate him, as we did designate the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Minister of Health as the Minister of Death. On that occasion, we impeached him with stealing the milk from the children.
Here is an opportunity again presenting itself to the Minister of Health, and I am perfectly satisfied that, as the most outstanding man in this House for 10 years, having regard to the circumstances of the moment, if he would take his courage in both hands and tell the House that he desires it to support him, there is no doubt that he could bring it home to his Cabinet, that amid all this terrible, world-wide tragedy with which they are dealing, the House is more interested in the tragedy at home. It is at home where the tragedy is being enacted, and the Minister of Health holds the key position. It is not generally recognised that he is the most honourable force in the Government. What does it matter to us if we have a great Empire if we have not at the same time a healthy, happy people? That is what the Minister of Health ought to be striving for instead of being party to all that for which the Bill is designed. It is not designed to make the conditions of the unemployed any better. It is designed purposely to save money. The Minister has said that himself. I thought that we had driven that awful word "cuts" out of the Government's policy. The Government won great power with their cuts of the unemployed and of other sections of the community, and the result is that the purchasing power of the whole populace of Britain has been reduced, and we are just about faced with ruin. We shall carry this Amendment to a Division, and we shall carry our agitation into the constituencies. I hope, however, that even now the Minister will rise and tell us that he will make the small concession for which we are asking.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The difficulty under which we on this side labour when we are dealing with this Bill and Amendments of this description is that we cannot bring to the mind of the Minister and the Committee the great diversity of 110 conditions which prevail throughout the country. I want to tell the Minister something which I hope he will remember against me in future. Conditions are such in some parts of the country that neither this Government nor any other dare apply this Bill to them. It is very difficult to bring these conditions home to Parliament. I notice that they are taking some stones from various parts of this building. I sometimes wish that they would pull the place down and re build it in Manchester or Newcastle. The right hon. Gentleman gave an elaborate and painstaking explanation of the effect of these various Amendments. I noticed that once more he lowered the age at which a man is secure so far as the pension is concerned from 60 to 58¼, but he tried to evade the point that once a person is outside insurance and is not 58 years of age, he loses his pension rights. That is a fact which has to be borne in mind. Take the case of the maternity and medical benefits. This Bill means that there are whole communities in which almost every person will be without medical benefit and will not be attended for maternity benefit. Take the district represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Curry). You can travel for hours in his division and find not a single colliery working. Nobody but the schoolmaster and the doctor will be entitled to any benefit when this Bill begins to apply. You can take the division of the hon. Member for East Newcastle (Sir E. Aske), a great shipbuilding centre, where the same thing applies. I know that hon. Members sometimes think that the shipbuilding, steel and iron centres get on our nerves and that we over-emphasise them, but, when we are dealing with legislation which is a matter of life and death to the people who live in them, these areas have to be spoken for and described. I know of a colliery where the workers got their notices this week-end to finish in a fortnight's time, and of two collieries which finished last week. That is going on in every export area.
The right hon. Gentleman, however, says, "If they get eight stamps after they get beyond the limit, it will be all right." You might as well talk about giving the unemployed a free trip to the uttermost parts of the earth and back again as talk about their getting eight 111 stamps. I wish I were as optimistic as the right hon. Gentleman. There are young men of 25 and 30 years of age who are good shipbuilders, good ship-workers and first-class miners. They are the finest craftsmen in the world. They have been idle for three, four and five years, and it is no good saying that in these cases the weakest have gone to the wall. I have heard workmen say that, and I have seen them idle a week after. I have known collieries which claimed to have some exceptional virtues, but they have had to close in the end. There are whole areas and communities where, with scarcely an exception, every family will, if this Bill ever applies, lose medical benefits, maternity benefit, and, as far as I can see, in due time their pensions too. As a matter of fact, I think the Government themselves feel there may be a change of Government before the Bill comes into operation, because the difference between the happy, smiling gentlemen whom we saw here in the first weeks of this Parliament and the depressed looking gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench is greater than we had hoped to see in our time.
Further, I wish to ask the Minister: Where are all the gentlemen who are always talking about economy? They make eloquent speeches about economy in general terms—they do not particularise —and they send out circulars, but when the Minister starts to do their work they are not here; they keep discreetly away until they have to vote in the Lobbies. I suggest to him that he ought to keep an eye upon them, because probably some of them will not even appear in the Lobbies if they can help it, though forcing other supporters of the Government into that position. I have no hope that we can make the Minister really understand what this problem is. I know that he says the consultative committee have agreed to these proposals, but I would like to know the real inwardness of that statement, know who the gentlemen are, what is their point of view, and exactly whom they represent. A man can be a representative of a great mass organisation and at the same time can be representative of what they call this health insurance, which, after all, has been very much undermined from its original idea, and very much reduced to a kind of Christmas club 112 in some aspects of its administration. No one can say that originally great insurance organisations were expected to play any part in the administration of this National Health Insurance work. What they have done is to split up the various interests, and the good areas play for their own ends. The right hon. Gentleman ought to take a census of opinion among men who are experts on health insurance in areas like South Wales and Durham, in Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. If he will take those worst areas he will find there is no agreement in working-class circles or among working-class representatives that he should apply the strict, actuarial, and what seems to us here to be the reasonable view, to conditions such as exist in those areas. I do not know whether the Minister thinks it is possible for him to review this matter and look at it in its entirety.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not ask the Minister to look at the Bill in its entirety. I have been thinking it was time I reminded him that we are not on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am sorry if I transgressed, but these Amendments deal with pensions, medical benefits and maternity benefits and that covers a great part of the Bill, and I was going to ask the Minister whether he could take a fresh look at things. If the Government unfortunately last so long, they will find it is impossible to administer this Bill, and if it is administered it will be found that it takes away from people whose lives have already been very painful and very burdensome the little gleam of hope which had been left to them that in times of stress and difficulty they could look forward to these benefits, however slight they might be.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I rise again—and I am supporting this reasonable Amendment —because of one or two observations which came from the lips of the Minister of Health. He stated that there had been a complaint that we did not have some give and take in this Bill and that he did not condescend to give to the House this Amendment, and he answered if I understood him aright, that he was giving the maximum that he could afford to give in this Bill. I deprecate the attitude that no concessions can be made. 113 On local bodies, of which I was formerly a member, Labour men, Tories and Liberals wrangled with one another in committee over various matters, and we found in the end that we might sometimes get 25 or 33¾ or 50 per cent. of the demands we made. In my estimation that was real democratic and reasonable government. But it seems to me that in connection with this Amendment and all the other Amendments there will be an endless amount of talk—to which I am contributing—in the next two days, although we are to know beforehand that no concessions we ask for will be granted. I say, earnestly and honestly, that it would be much better if the whole of the opposing forces in this House packed up their bags and left this assembly to the National Government, and allowed them to carry through their Bill, because by no method of discussion that we know of and by no method of threat can we induce the Government to grant any concession in any shape or form.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is doing something very much like repeating a. speech on a previous Amendment in which, I had to remind him, he was getting rather wide of the subject.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
Yes, but I am going to use it for a different illustration. Our only hope would be to appeal to the rank and file of the Members of the National Government, if they were in the House, to throw over the Cabinet in its unreasonable attitude, to throw over their bankers' dictation, and as reasonable-minded beings to apply their minds to the rights and wrongs of this Bill, act the part of reasonable men and compel their Government to move in the proper direction. Governments and Front Benches move only when they are threatened from the rear. That would be the only hope I would have. When the Division is called, as it will be, on this Amendment, we shall see trooping into the Division Lobby hon. Members by the hundred who have not heard any part of the discussion, and who have not heard the Minister's defence, but who are simply here as part of a great machine. They go into the Lobby, having asked the Whips in which Lobby they should vote. That is to be deprecated, because one is prevented from appealing to the sense of 114 justice of hon. Members across the Floor of the House. They do not listen to the case that is put forward, the defence, or the criticism, in order to form an honest and a reasonable judgment.
The Government are taking away, at the end of 1935, certain pension rights, and the Amendment is that there shall be 'an extension until 1940. A large number of people will be affected by this decision, and it will be difficult for hon. Members to go to their constituents and defend their anti-working-class attitude in this House. There is no doubt that every one of those hon. Members is part of the machine, and he is going to carry out his function. This House has waged attacks upon the unemployed, on Unemployment Insurance, 'and is now waging attacks on National Health Insurance. I am told that we have established among the sensible unemployed of this country a sort of prayer for the men and women who are under the means test. The unemployed man is said to be teaching this prayer to his children:Oh, Heavenly Father, bless us all,And keep us all alive;Because there's ten of us for dinnerBut there's food for only five.That prayer is being repeated by the working class, who are being denied the ordinary decencies of life. In connection with National Health Insurance and with pensions, the great fault is one that we are not able to discuss, that is that a pension should be paid to every widow in the State. Every widow ought to be paid a pension when the husband or the breadwinner dies. This Clause is going to affect the pensions of widows. I am sorry to see that up to the present moment there has not been a Lady hon. Member of this House who has taken any part in the discussion upon a matter that is going to affect a very largo number of women. We are getting circulars attacking married women, but this Clause is going to affect the widow. Formerly everybody was attacking the married woman. The single women attacked her, and even the men attacked the married women.
This Clause is taking away the right of the insured worker to a widow's pension and it will bear very heavily on a large section of the working class community. It is going to bear very heavily upon them within the very near future, 115 that is if this Government is allowed to exist, or if the new system does not collapse beforehand. By the end of 1935 very large numbers of people will be entirely denied the whole of their rights under National Health Insurance registration. The Minister of Health stated that provision had been made for a sort of return when things got better. I honestly suggest that that remark "when things improve" would get five shillings in "Punch" as a joke. Nobody believes that things will improve under the present order of society. They will grow steadily worse. The Government are launching an attack for depriving the working class of the results of social insurance and the benefits that have accrued from our social system within the past 20 or 25 years. Every particle of that is being attacked and undermined, because a section of the community believes that it will be better to be rid of the whole of this business to free sums of money in order that that money may be spent in other directions. I could agree if I saw the necessity for it.
We are continually told that national emergency demands that such things as maternity rights should go. What national emergency demands it? Where is the evidence that a large section of the people is unable to bear the burden of the men and women at the very bottom of the social ladder who are being crushed by this Bill? There is no evidence. Complaints are being made that not enough provision is made for hon. Members of the House, and that not enough money is expended to allow them to attend the Trooping of the Colour. Go to the Derby or to Ascot. [Interruption.] There is one Chairman keeping order, and he does need hon. Members to do it. I am in his hands. There will be at Ascot races the people who are now demanding that the workers shall be attacked under this Bill. We shall have there a collection of all the rogues, thieves and parasites of society. They will go there, and then they will tell us that we cannot afford to give pension rights to the insured workers, and that we have got to take away their maternity grants and rights that are guaranteed to them under National Health Insurance.
We ask for an extension of those rights to 1940, and we are told, as we were told 116 on an earlier Amendment, that that extension cannot be granted. All I can say is that I am rather sorry to see that what has been looked upon throughout the world as a great democratic institution, a great assembly where a man can plead the cause of his fellow-men, be listened to with attention and get consideration after reasonable discussion—where if you make out your case you get some compromise in some shape or form—no longer exists. Under this Clause, as under all other Clauses in connection with the proposals to extend their operation to 1940, we find we are up against a blank wall of complete, cold refusal. We are told that the country cannot afford it. The money could have been found in many ways. We spend £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 on a battleship, and we spend £3 10s. to keep a child in a sanatorium outside Glasgow. After we have destroyed their lives by saying that we cannot afford to pay a miserable £1,000,000 to keep these people in health, we pour the money out in attempting to build up their frame again after destroying it. The Government say that they cannot provide £1,000,000 in order to guarantee the pension rights of the widows and others who are to suffer under this Bill. We accept that! We will go into the Lobby to show where we stand. We can at least say to the people whom you have robbed: "Under the National Government you have a band of men without souls, without conscience, who are prepared to ride roughshod over you and trample you into the gutter."
§ Mr. BATEY
We have listened to several strong speeches against this part of the Bill and in favour of the Amendment, but, if ever strong speeches were justified, they are justified on this Amendment. This question is the most important one that the House has been called upon to consider since it dealt with the cuts in unemployment benefit and establishment of the means test. I remember that the House was crowded when the question of the opening of cinemas on Sundays was being discussed, but the importance of that question was as nothing compared with the matter that we are discussing to-night—the Government's mad policy towards the unemployed. The Government are not satisfied with cutting unemployment benefit and establishing the means test, but in 117 this part of the Bill they are now saying to the unemployed—and they have made it clear that they are going to vote against this Amendment—that they will proceed further and rob the unemployed of maternity benefit. That is one of the cruelest things that any man could vote for. Because a man is unemployed and cannot get work, the Government say that they will rob him of maternity benefit and his wife may die in child-bed so far as they are concerned, and the supporters of the Government will troop into the Lobby to vote for that policy.
One would have thought that the National Government would have been satisfied with the wrongs that they have already inflicted upon the unemployed. It seems that they are not satisfied, but are, just starting on their mad course of brushing the unemployed off the pavement of life into the gutter. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that something must be done to help to safeguard the funds of the societies. That does not—it cannot—justify a course like this. If nothing else were possible, the Government ought to have been prepared to find the money rather than inflict this wrong upon the unemployed. It seems, however, that not only are they going to do this savage, brutal act to the unemployed, but they are going to rob the unemployed of all pension rights. At the end of last year, I was astonished at the Minister of Health bringing in his Prolongation of Insurance Bill. I did not think he had so much sympathy with the unemployed; I expected him to treat them then as he is treating them now. Now, however, we can see the reason. It is as clear as noonday. It was simply to carry us over to this point where he could rob the unemployed wholesale and stop all Treasury payments for the unemployed. That is really what is behind this Bill. It is not a matter of helping National Health Insurance, but of saving the Treasury the few paltry thousands of pounds that they have been paying for the purpose of keeping unemployed people in insurance. One of my colleagues suggested that the working classes would not stand this treatment, and I confess that, the more I am in the House of Commons, the more I lose faith in Parliamentary Government. I should never be surprised to see the working classes rise 118 up against it and sweep it away if we pursue policies like this. Some of us come from distressed mining areas where there are at least 60,000 men unemployed without any hope of being able to get a day's work. The Government were returned in order to promote industry and prosperity. They know that there is no hope of industrial prosperity from their policy, and, therefore, we who come from those distressed areas with 60,000 men who are doomed to unemployment, who are without the ghost of a chance of getting a day's work, who will never be able to renew their health insurance by getting 26 stamps in a year—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not merely getting away from the Amendment, but is discussing one that has already been dealt with.
§ Mr. BATEY
I acknowledge that that is so; I was, perhaps, going a little too far; but I think I am not debarred from saying that these huge masses of unemployed men have the blackest possible outlook when the Government are pursuing this policy of robbing them of pension rights and of so many other things. It affects many of them in this way, that they will never qualify for an old age pension at 65, and, if they die, their widows will never be qualified for widows' pensions; and for these thousands of men the outlook is extremely black. One would not mind if the Government had a mandate for this, at the General Election, but they received no such mandate. The Prime Minister, who represents a neighbouring Division to mine, would never have been returned to this House if he had told the people in that Division that he was going to be responsible for a Bill like this. As a matter of fact, he takes good care to get out of the way when these diabolical Bills are being pressed upon the House, so that, when he "faces the music," as ho will, in the county of Durham, he will be able to say, "I was not here."
§ Mr. BATEY
One thing is quite certain, and that is that he will not be Member for Seaham; and it is something for which one will be glad. I want to point out the importance of this Amendment. I ask the Committee not to be satisfied with this proviso continuing 119 until the year 1935. The Amendment proposes to substitute the year 1940, and, in my opinion, that is a reasonable proposal, because long before 1940 the Government will be out of office, and the unemployed will have had an opportunity of expressing through the ballot box what they think of this Government. They may not have that chance before 1935. If one reads this Government aright, the men at the head of it will do anything in order to cling to office. Certainly the Prime Minister will never give up office, and that applies also to several other Members of this Government. So that we can see this Government clinging to office in 1936. I think we should have the wording of the Bill so that the people will be able to give an expression of opinion on it before the Clause comes into force, and we think that is only a reasonable thing to ask. If "forty" was put in, we should have the opinion of the country and the verdict of the unemployed, and there is no question as to what that verdict will be when the time comes.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
I take it from the Minister's statement that 80,000 persons would go out of benefit at the end of this year but for this Bill. The second point he made is that by this Bill they are endeavouring to make the scheme actuarially sound. In accordance with those two principles, they propose to prolong the rights of the unemployed. The gravamen of our case is contained in the substance of the speech we have just heard. We say, firstly, that the Government have had no mandate at all upon this matter and that it cannot be said that this is part of the free hand that the Prime Minister asked for at the General Election. We challenge any Member of either of the component parts of the National party to say that they placed before the electorate anything that is contained in the substance of this Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have tried my best to be lenient with hon. Members. I think that there must be some limit to the extent to which they can indulge in Second Reading speeches without any reference to the Amendments that are before the Committee.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
My only reason for making reference to the fact was that, 120 if it has not been placed before the electorate, we think it ought to be postponed from 1935 to 1940 in order that the electorate may have an opportunity of hearing the case for the Measure. We have heard that the prolongation of these benefits will cause an expenditure of £3,800,000 a year. We believe that, if Members of the Government were free to vote upon this matter, they would say that if the cost of the benefits represents no more than £3,800,000 a year for five years, and if the Minister proposed that that money should be obtained by some other means, it could be obtained probably from many sources. We could refer to the beet sugar subsidy. We could refer to the fact that the farmers have had a subsidy of £6,000,000. We could refer to provisions which are being made in the Finance Bill for things which are certainly not as pertinent or as essential to the nation as the extra money that will be required in order that health, pensions, maternity and all that is contained in this Bill should be preserved for another five years. It is estimated that in South Wales more than a half of the normal complement of miners are idle. There are no contributions coming through for our hospitals. I am placing before the Committee nothing that bears upon sentimentality, but something which within the next year or two, if this Bill goes through, may become a positive fact, and that is an epidemic. Destitution is so rife, unemployment is so grave, the numbers being cut off by the means test and the Anomalies Bill—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is confessing himself at fault practically by referring to the passing of the Bill. I must ask him to confine his remarks to the very wide scope which the Amendment gives him.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It was not my intention to wander except to place before the Committee the seriousness of the matter. I can visualise what is likely to happen in South Wales if medical and maternity benefit is not to be retained for the dependants of unemployed persons. I am amazed that we have had no lady speaker, and that no Member of the Government has said a single word pertaining to this. With an enormous preponderance of men who have been unemployed for years and have no possibility of being reabsorbed into industry as far 121 as I can see, they cannot obtain stamps. I should like, if it were possible, for Members to have a free hand to express their convictions in the light of the circumstances that they know in their constituencies. If that were done, we are certain that the Bill would not be allowed to go through in its present form. We do not believe you can make this actuarially sound. There is a great diversity between one grade and another, ore grade in which people have had no work
§ for years and do not suffer a great deal of sickness, and another where there is a great preponderance of sickness, and it is practically impossible to have a scheme which will work soundly for any length of time. We trust that the Minister will reflect upon this and, upon reflection, will accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the word 'thirty-five' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 45.123
|Division No. 229.]||AYES.||[9.16 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Eden, Robert Anthony||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Elmley, Viscount||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V, K.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Everard, W. Lindsay||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Atkinson. Cyril||Fermoy, Lord||Macdonald, Capt. p. D. (I. of W.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||McLean, Major Alan|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Fox, Sir Gifford||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Maitland, Adam|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Gledhill, Gilbert||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Boyce H. Leslie||Goff, Sir Park||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Goldie, Noel B.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Miller, Richard James|
|Brocklebank, c. E. R.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Millar, Sir James Duncan|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Grimston, R. V.||Mills, Major I. D. (New Forest)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw.|
|Burghley, Lord||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mitchell, Harold p.(Br'trd & Chisw'k)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Burnett, John George||Hales, Harold K.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hanley, Dennis A.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Hartland, George A.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Munro, Patrick|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Clarke, Frank||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Pearson, William G.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Penny, sir George|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Jamieson, Douglas||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Pike, Ceil F.|
|Cowan. D. M.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Potter, John|
|Craven, Ellis. William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Ker, J. Campbell||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Kimball, Lawrence||Pybus, Percy John|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Dickie, John P.||Lees-Jones, John||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Conner, P. W.||Levy, Thomas||Remer, John R.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lewis, Oswald||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Rosbotham, S. T.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Runge, Nor ah Cecil||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Storey, Samuel||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Salmon, Major Isidore||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Tate, Mavis Constance||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Slater, John||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||and Mr. Blindell|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Briant, Frank||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Leonard, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern. John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. Krikwood and Mr. Buchanan.|
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 3, line 16, to leave out from the word "shall," to the word "not," in line 18.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 246; Noes, 46.125
|Division No. 230.]||AYES.||[9.26 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Elmley, Viscount|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Everard, W, Lindsay|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Christie, James Archibald||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Clarry, Reginald George||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Clayton Dr. George C.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Conant, R. J. E.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Cooke, Douglas||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Blindell, James||Copeland, Ida||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Boulton, W. W.||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Cowan, D. M.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Craven-Ellis, William||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Crooks, J. Smedley||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootie)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Graves, Marjorie|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Crossley, A. C.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Burghley, Lord||Dickie, John P.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hales, Harold K.|
|Burnett, John George||Donner, P, W.||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Hartland, George A.|
|Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Duggan, Hubert John||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Eden, Robert Anthony||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Milne, Sir John S. Wardlaw||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Mitcheson, G. G.||Shaw, Helen 8. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Shaw, Captain William T, (Forfar)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Slater, John|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Munro, Patrick||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Jones, Sir G.W.H. (Stoke New'gton)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Kimball, Lawrence||North, Captain Edward T.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||O'Connor, Terence James||Storey, Samuel|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Law Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Pearson, William G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Lees-Jones, John||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Levy, Thomas||Pickering, Ernest H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Lewis, Oswald||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Pike, Cecil F.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Potter, John||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Pybus, Percy John||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wells. Sydney Richard|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rea, Walter Russell||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|McLean, Major Alan||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Remer, John R,||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Rontoul, Sir Gervals S.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Maitland, Adam||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Rosbotham, S. T.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Runge, Norah Cecil||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Russell, Harmer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Meller, Richard James||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Sir George Penny and Lieut.|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Salmon, Major Isidore||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Milner, Major James|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Price, Gabriel|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Buchanan, George.||Jenkins, Sir William||Thorns, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kirkwood, David||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianclly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McGovern, John||Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan Graham|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Granted, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 3, line 20, to leave out the words "medical benefit or."
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain the purpose of my Amendment. If hon. Members will turn to page 3 of the Bill, they will find the following words:
and then we come to a new proviso—
- "(a) no person shall by virtue of this Subsection be treated as insured after the thirty-
126 first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-five; and
- (b) a person whilst so treated as insured shall not be entitled to maternity benefit "—and shall not after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, be entitled to medical benefit or any additional benefits.127 As far as I understand it, the position is this: The Consolidating Act of 1924 deprived certain members of approved societies who were unemployed for a long period from receiving sickness and disablement benefit. This Bill deprives them further of maternity benefit, medical benefit, and additional benefits. The purport of my Amendment is to remove the words "medical benefit," which would mean that the persons referred to in this Clause would be entitled to medical benefit until 1933. When we were dealing with maternity benefit I said that I regarded that as the most important benefit under the scheme. I would not like to pit one benefit against the other, but I am sure that medical benefit is of extreme importance to the insured population of this country. I am not dealing with the point as to the quality of the medical benefit. The subject with which we are dealing has nothing to do with the question whether the panel doctor is doing his duty or not. Whether the quality of the service rendered is good or indifferent the panel practice is in operation and medical benefit is provided for the vast majority of the insured population, and we want it to continue to be provided for the persons dealt with in this Clause. It may be interesting if I read a short extract from one of the circulars issued by the Ministry some time ago:The responsibilities of the insurance practitioner include not only those pertaining to the treatment of disease but also— and to an extent not required in any other field of medical practice—that of estimating and advising upon the physical and mental fitness of his patients for remunerative work of various kinds.It is true to say that medical benefit under the National Health Insurance scheme has had an enormous effect upon the vitality statistics. The infantile mortality and the general mortality rates have declined consequent upon the provision of medical benefit for such a large proportion of the population. There must be about 16,000,000 insured persons who are entitled to medical benefit free of charge. When I say "free of charge," I mean that the sum of 8s. 6d. is paid to the panel doctor from the funds of the societies in respect of every insured person. This service is very valuable, and it is very much more valuable when it is remembered that we 128 are talking now of those insured persons who are getting on in years. We are dealing in the main with persons of 58¼ years of age and upwards. Therefore, the Committee ought to be careful not to take away medical benefit from one class for whose benefit it ought to be retained.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The person over 581 years and the person over 60 years of age retain their medical benefit.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The statement in the Bill is thatno person shall by virtue of this Subsection be treated as insured,and so forth and shall not be entitled tomedical benefit or any additional benefits.I thought the type of person we are dealing with was the type of person mentioned in Section 3 of the Act of 1924. It is very difficult to follow exactly what the Bill means. The Clause says:Where an insured person to whom Subsection 3) of this Section applies had not at the date when that Sub-section became applicable to him attained the age of sixty or had not then been continuously insured for ten years.It then provides that this class of person is not entitled to sickness and disablement benefit. Then we impose upon that Clause in the Consolidated Act of 1924, the additions in the Act of 1928 the words with which we are now dealing. If I am right in putting it in that way, certain persons who are now entitled to medical benefit will be deprived of it if we pass this Clause as it stands. If I am wrong I shall be glad to be corrected by the right hon. Gentleman. I can see no use in leaving words in the Bill unless they either add to or take away from the advantages enjoyed by this class of person. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to clear up some of my difficulties.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The hon. Member has raised a very nice point. In respect of the persons we have been considering under Sub-section (4), we have extended the conditions affecting insured persons, irrespective of age, who have suffered from long unemployment and have hitherto been kept insured. The point at issue was this, that for those persons there will be until December, 1933, the right to medical benefit. The cost of this medical benefit up to the end of 1933 will 129 be met by an adjustment of the transfer values which are debited to societies when members cease to be insured for health insurance benefit. This ingenious device, which will cost about £50,000, will extend medical benefit in 1033 without throwing a direct burden on societies, or requiring any Exchequer grant. It is a device that can only be applied once, and for a very short transitional period. The hon. Member in his Amendment is asking for the cost of medical benefit for three years instead of one. That would prove too heavy a drain upon transfer values for those persons who would go out of insurance at the end of 1935. For any of the group who resumed employment before the end of 1935, and it is anticipated that a considerable number will do so, insurance would be continuous; consequently, there would be no transfer values to pass, and the societies accordingly would get no compensation for the cost of medical benefit granted. Hon. Members will understand that in the present financial situation any suggestion of a grant from the Exchequer is out of the question, because it would require a Financial Resolution, and approved societies, including the society of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) have maintained from the first that prolongation beyond the period approved by the 1928 Act cannot be at the expense of their funds. We have done the utmost we can. by this ingenious arrangement in regard to transfer values, and I hope that the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press the Amendment.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Statements have been made by the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Secretary to the effect that the insured person is going to gain by this Measure compared with the prolongation scheme. May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister of Health at some time during our discussions to tell us whether the insured person will not be better off if the prolongation scheme is continued than he will be if the provisions of this Bill are adopted, and especially the provisions in relation to these benefits?
§ Mr. BROWN
I cannot answer that question on this Amendment, because it would require a review of the whole arrangements in the Bill, but there is no doubt that the arrangements proposed in 130 the Bill are in many particulars a great gain to the 80,000 persons who are affected by prolongation, and especially in regard to pension, rights.
My interpretation of this Clause is that a man of 58¼ years of age, who becomes unemployed at that age and pays no further contributions for 33 months, loses his pension rights, his maternity benefits and his medical benefits.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
That is a point about which we should be perfectly clear. Under the existing law the old man of 60, whose rights become preserved, retains his medical benefit. Under the Bill he gets this right at 58¼ years of age. After that under the Bill, as under the existing law, he will continue to have medical benefit for life.
May I put some cases which have actually happened? Many miners have been stopped at many pits at 55 and 56 years of age. Am I right in assuming that a man who is discharged at 56 years of age, who has contributed to the fund for 20 years, drawn little or no benefits at all, and does not get back into industry for 33 months loses his medical benefit? Am I right in that assumption? If I am right, and I assume that I am because there is no reply from the Front Bench, I shall support the Amendment. What does the Clause really mean? There are thousands of men not only in the mining industry but in. other industries who are being dismissed, who are not 58 years of age, and is there anyone who can hold out any hope of their returning to industry at 5.5 or 56 years of age? There is very little hope indeed of their return. In many cases these men have contributed to this fund for 20 years and they have had the panel doctor dealing not only with their medical requirements but also with questions of compensation for accidents. These men are getting on in years, and we appeal to the Committee to see that medical benefit, at any rate, should follow the man and his dependants as long as he may live. Whatever else should be maintained the right to medical benefit should be continued. It is most necessary when men are getting into their later years. The Government, I hope, will secure what is agreed on all hands to be one of the 131 greatest assets of the insurance scheme. Whatever may be said about the medical profession, public health, generally has improved since the insurance scheme came into operation, and the insured person has always been able to call upon the assistance of a medical practitioner when he has been ill. Now the Government are proposing to deny to men who have paid contributions for a large number of years that medical assistance which he needs most towards the end of his life.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The Parliamentary Secretary finished his statement on this Amendment by saying that there was a good deal in what was being said on behalf of the Amendment, but that it was useless to make any appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. E. BROWN indicated dissent.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
You read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow and you will see that that is the sense of what you said. I hope the Committee will realise that we are discussing our own folk on this Amendment, whom hon. Members are supposed to have so much at heart. We boast outside that the outstanding characteristic of the Briton is his joy of defending those who cannot defend themselves. Where are those hon. Members to-night? Where are those hon. Members who filled the benches opposite when beer was being discussed the other night?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Where is all the enthusiasm to-night to defend the British working man? When beer was at stake—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is correct on this occasion. It was not the British working man they were interested in, but the profits which they derived from beer.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
It does not matter who voted or did not vote or what may be the party. That is another story. I am very sorry that quite a number of 132 the Labour party are as bad in that line as any other party, but it cannot be said about the party for which I stand.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) is telling what is not true. I do not belong to his party.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I shall not contradict it in the Press. This is the right place in which to correct it.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We shall get on rather better if hon. Members do not divert the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood).
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I wish to emphasise that this Amendment raises a most serious matter. It affects the poorest section of the community. If tariffs were under discussion the House would be packed by men who were sent here to defend the poor. Look how the Tory benches were packed when beer was being discussed. The Parliamentary Secretary told us just now that there was no use in our discussing this matter, because we could not get anything from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that it meant a grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is a terrible admission to be made by a member of the Government. The country believes that this is a matter which should be dealt with seriously, and that our request should be granted. We are merely asking that medical attendance be given free to those who are not able to pay for it. The Parliamentary Secretary tells us that it is no use appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Yet in this same House only a fortnight ago hon. Members opposite appealed to the Chancellor, and appealed successfully, for concessions to big employers of labour here. They got concessions for improvements in machinery, a concession which meant that all that had to be taken into account before assessing for Income Tax. Another concession they got—not those who speak for the working class, because we who 133 speak for the working classes never get any concessions—
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
We here. Seeing that the hon. Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) has put it to me, I will say that every time we have a vote in this House directly affecting the interest of the working class, the Noble Lady, like every other Tory, votes with the Tories as against the working class. The next concession granted to big interests in this House was in connection with the Silk Duties. Why do they get concessions and not we? Why is there no concession ever made to my class? We can stand here and make our appeal to be attacked on. all sides, and our folk get nothing. Take my own trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. To meet the abnormal situation as a trade union we have spent over £10,000,000 in the last 10 years. That represented pennies contributed by ordinary members of the working class to protect themselves against what we call a rainy day. All the days now are rainy days for them. They are unemployed. I know men. who are as good as I am—[Interruption]—and I am as good as anything in this House, and those men are right up against it. They do not know where they are going to get their breakfast. [Interruption.] It would be a good thing for the hon. Member to get a good hungering. It would take some of the fat out of him.
Here we are appealing for the poorer section of the community. At a time when this country had a spirit of comradeship abroad in the land, as the result of the nation being up against it, we got concessions made to the working classes. We got a 47-hours week, a reduction in the hours of labour. That is the only thing we retain. Following on the creation of that atmosphere we got unemployment insurance, with all the little things that were added thereunto. Medical attention was given to those who had not the wherewithal themselves to pay for it. Here is this great Power, the British Empire, supposed to be the greatest Empire on which the sun ever shone, and here in its capital, supposed to be the greatest capital on earth, we have this Government representing that 134 great Power and this Government is attacking poor women. Shame upon them. No hon. Member opposite dare deny the truth of that statement. They are attacking the poorest of the poor; they are putting the widows and the orphans into the front line trenches. The Parliamentary Secretary said that we had come now to such a state of affairs in this country that we could not afford, what we formerly afforded, and that we could not be as kindly disposed as we had been formerly. Other hon. Members, more blunt than he, have told us time and time again that all this sentiment would have to be wiped out, and all this sob stuff would have to go. Well, let it go, but the House of Commons will have to take care, because sentiment is something which we ought not to let go and the House of Commons is treading on dangerous ground at the present juncture.
The Government arc refusing every Amendment that we put forward, and every Amendment that we put forward is for the benefit of the poor folk. There is not a man or a woman in this Committee, even the most Diehard Tory, who would do that kind of thing of his or he Town accord. If any hon. Member met an individual who was up against it, he would share with that individual, but, when we come before these same men and ask them, as a body, to concede this humble request, what reply do we get? Imagine me being humble, but I am humble, not for myself. I would humble myself many times for my class. I am appealing in this matter to the Committee and to the Minister who is responsible for the health of the people. One of the privileges which the present generation enjoyed was that the poorest of the poor were always able to get the services of a doctor. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Dr. Hunter) who has just arrived knows that what I am stating is true. The working class formerly suffered all manner of torture, and mothers and children had to apply all kinds of cures to ease pain; many times making mistakes because they had not the experience nor the tuition to enable them to apply the correct cure in every case. It has been our boast that ours is a kindlier generation than former generations. We have organised the medical faculty, not entirely to our satisfaction I agree, but better than it was ever organised before 135 so that the poorest people could get medical attention and medicine without being required to pay for it. That was a tremendous boon to the poor people of this country. Here is this well-fed House— [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I will speak up and some of you would give a lot of your fat to be able to speak as loudly. Here is this well-fed House—I know it is in Committee—sitting here with the power to extend the right hand of fellowship to the poor, but, instead of doing that, they merely smile, and snigger quietly, and try to draw one off the theme of the discussion and try to make light of the question and do everything except to face the facts. ButPacts are chiels, that… downa be disputed.Here they would try to dispute anything. This is not the way to solve the problems with which the country is faced. This is not what the Government were returned to do. They were not sent here with the greatest majority that any Government ever had in the history of the country to do this. They should think black, burning shame of themselves, to use this great power that they have got to filch from the poorest of the poor this small right that they enjoy to get medical attention. We have done all that we can to try to show the Committee the road that they are travelling and that, instead of doing good, they are doing harm, because this is bound to re-act against the Government. It will be a boomerang in no uncertain fashion. How do they expect that the health of the people of this country can be as good as it was formerly? One of the Welsh Members who spoke on the last Amendment said that he honestly believed that unless something was done to ease the situation, to give them more than they are getting now, we should be faced with an epidemic of disease. Here is the machinery by which that could be held in check, but you are going to destroy the machinery that we have and to put nothing in its place, and poor folk who formerly enjoyed the right to go to a doctor, because the Government would refund him, are now to be denied that right.
Now we are going back instead of advancing. Is it because this country is so poor? Is there any truth that this 136 country has come to such a pass that it has to curtail all these wee nice things that once were in operation to assist the poorest of the poor? What about all the display of wealth that there will be at Ascot? What about the Derby? What about the last Court that was held by His Majesty, with such a display of wealth as never was seen before? Where is the poverty? In the homes of the poor. The rich are not denying themselves anything —absolutely nothing. They are not lacking in food, they are not lacking in clothing, they are not lacking in all the pleasures in which they indulge to such an extent that they do not know what to do to enjoy them. They have killed all the joys of nature and have to get artificial joys to appease their delicate appetites for pleasure, instead of the intelligent, healthy enjoyments.
That is the situation to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] You can cheer to your hearts' content, but you can take it from me—I am watching what is going on here—that unless there is a change of mind and a change of approach to this awful tyranny and agony of the unemployed, men, women, and children, in this country, though they are long-suffering, the day is not far distant, because I can see to-night the writing on the wall, when not only will this Government be doomed, but, unless a stop is put to this, the British Empire also is doomed.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
May I appeal to the Committee to come to a decision? The principle of this Amendment was discussed on the last Amendment, and I think the idea then was that we should have only a short discussion—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order. The last Amendment was not discussed at all; it was the one before the last.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The principle of this Amendment was discussed on the last Amendment, and the idea was that we should have only a short discussion on this Amendment in order to fill in the picture, and then proceed to the interesting Amendment which appears on the Paper.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I put 137 a specific question. He has given the impression to the Committee that some of the persons with whom we are dealing will be still entitled to medical benefit. Will be look at his own Memorandum on page 5, which says:The Bill further provides that any persons who are kept in insurance until 31st December, 1933, as explained above, and who are still unemployed up to that date, shall remain insured during the year 1934 for pensions purposes, but with no title to any health insurance benefits, and similarly if unemployment continues throughout 1934 insurance for pensions only is extended to 31st December, 1935.Then we are referred to Clause 1 (5), the very Clause with which we are dealing now. In a previous paragraph he explains that medical benefit is admitted in those cases, but in these specific cases medical benefit is not part of the provisions of the Bill, and I would like to know his explanation of the two classes being in the same Clause.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
It is not an easy matter to dovetail in, and this is dovetailing in, the changes made by the Bill on the existing law. The extension of medical benefits is for one year only, that is, for 1933 for all unemployed persons; but there is another class for whom there is a preservation of medical benefit under the existing law. That is the class of old persons whose insurance is preserved when they get to 60. That will continue to be preserved under this Bill. It will not only continue to be preserved, but the class of persons will be extended downwards to include persons over the age of 58¼.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I was here when the undertaking was given about the discussion, and I do not take the Minister's view about it. I have never broken an undertaking, and I do not wish to do it now. There are one or two points which I wish the Parliamentary Secretary would answer and which I have put to him three or four times. In his vindication of this provision, he said that the Minister has conceded one year longer taking from reserve balances, but that he cannot do it any longer; we cannot tap the reserve fund any further, and an Exchequer grant is out of the question. There is no doubt in anybody's mind that the mass of these people are extremely poor. They are driven into this situation after years of unemployment, 138 and they are chargeable either to unemployment benefit and, in case of sickness, to health insurance, or to Poor Law relief. Not one in a hundred has any private funds, and they are chargeable entirely to local funds.
I put this to the Committee as a sensible problem to which I cannot get an answer. The Minister says, "We cannot give an Exchequer grant"; but if these people are sick nobody will deny that they must have attention, and everybody will admit that it would be unfair to transfer the burden from the State to the doctors. But what will be the position? These people are undeniably poor, and either the doctor will have to attend them or they will have to go to the Poor Law. If the Poor Law looks after them the public will have to pay just the same, because the Poor Law doctor has to be paid just like the National Health Insurance doctor. The case put by the Undersecretary that he cannot get the money has no force, because the money has to be found either from a national source or a local source, and the poorer the locality the greater its burden will be. Durham, for instance, will have to bear a far heavier burden than, say, Eastbourne or Southend. We do not escape this as a public charge, only the locality has to pay it instead of the nation—or else the medical profession will be left to bear the burden, and, to the credit to the medical profession, I say that already they do bear a great part of the burden. [Interruption.]
When this Measure was introduced I was sneered at by Labour Members because we defended the doctors. Yes, I do defend the doctors, and I am not ashamed to do so. They are very decent people. In truth, the doctors are on the horns of a dilemma. If a poor person knocks at the door of a doctor at 12 o'clock at night he has to go to the case. If he does not, then his practice is ruined, because it goes round the district that he would not turn out when sent for by that poor person. Another reason is that that poor person may have relatives on his panel, so he has to turn out for nothing, because otherwise those relatives might leave his panel. As everybody here knows, he is driven to do the work whether he likes it or not.. Therefore, we are placing on him the burden of caring for the sick. The hon. Member for 139 Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) pointed out that the cost of the defence of the nation was a national burden. Nobody would say that the cost of looking after the coast in any particular part of Britain should be borne only by the people residing near there. Yet that is what we say, in effect, in connection with the burden of unemployment. We make those areas which suffer most bear the highest charge for dealing with unemployment.
As a nation we have as much right to maintain our sick as we have to make the cost of the Army and Navy a national charge. Therefore, I ask those who are in charge of the Bill to meet us on this point: These unemployed people are undeniably poor and without resources, and when they are sick they will have to be cared for by somebody. It is no answer to us to say that we cannot find the money, because the, money will be found, only under this Bill we are transferring what should be a national burden to the localities. It is for the good of the nation that everybody should know how we stand in regard to health. It is a bad thing when you make it impossible for people to know where they stand in relation to the health of the nation. This is a transference of that burden.
There is another small point I wish to make. The Minister said in reply, I think it was to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price), that everybody over the age of 58 was safeguarded; but that is only subject to two conditions which he did not add. One of those conditions is 11 years' constant insurance, and the second is that in the year before the contributor reaches the age of 58 years and three months, he must have eight stamps. Both of those very important qualifications the Minister did not mention. The last point I wish to put to the Minister is that we have asked for the maintenance of sickness payments, of maternity payments, and of the care of the widow and of the aged, and in each case we have been deliberately refused on account of "national need." A great portion of the burden has to be borne either from national or local sources, and therefore it is not necessary for the Minister to speak of national need.
The case put by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in 140 regard to the attendance of Members was laughed at, but a great commercial institution can bring pressure to bear upon this House by its power of propaganda. Here, we are dealing with a section of the community. I never knew it happen before, in all my political public life, now extending over many years, that approved societies should attack their own members. The people with whom we are dealing are members of approved societies, and here we have the spectacle of the approved societies attacking their own members. I think that that is a shocking and a disgraceful thing. This Bill would never have been possible if it had not been for the conspiracy of the approved societies. The Bill is a retrograde step from the point of view of public health. If hon. Members claim, as they do, that they polled millions of working-class votes at the last General Election, may I ask that they should put the same enthusiasm into a matter that affects those people as they would into a case that big business was backing?
§ Mr. BATEY
I am rising simply to deal with a point which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who, I think, referred to an assurance that was given by the Parliamentary Secretary to-night, in which mention was made of a committee, upon which there were six members of a trade union and which recommended this Bill and this Clause. I have had a communication sent to me by a trade union National Health approved society. I will read the communication, and I will leave the Parliamentary Secretary to explain the matter. It says:It is pointed out that at present societies are losing £2,000,000 per annum, and that under the new proposals the loss will be halved.Then they say:It is admitted that there is a loss due to the Economy Act. The Economy Act reduced the State grant by £2,750,000 per annum "—the very figure that the Minister was saying to-night was the amount about which the societies were in difficulties now. The amount that he mentioned to-night is the amount which the trade union society say is due to the Economy Act. They say:Its restoration would more than compensate in amount for the loss of contri- 141 butions, although it would not have the effect of being applied to that specific purpose if restored in its original form. It would have to be earmarked, and not simply distributed to societies as the present State grant is on cost of benefit and administrative expenditure.They recommend:That the State grant withheld since 1926 be now restored and earmarked as a fund for the purpose of making up the value of contributions due to genuine unemployment.I will deal with the rest of the circular in reference to other matters when we come to them and when we deal with the subject of pensions. It is clear to me that the statement of the trade union approved societies cannot be borne out by the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
This is, perhaps, the most important matter that we have discussed for the last few months. While the Minister may have a case for a national scheme being based on actuarial grounds, I think that the last thing that should be entertained by any Member of the House is that medical assistance should be cut off in this regard. There are a few things that each Member should think about with great care, including pensions for the aged, and particularly this matter, and I should like to have the views of eminent medical men on the other side of the House in this respect. I am sure that, if they expressed their convictions, they would not agree with the Minister. However much we may desire to make economies or to make the scheme actuarially sound, I suggest that this should be the last thing that should be attacked. It is really the very last straw on any health scheme that may have to be applied in this country.
§ Whatever may be our political predilections at the moment, and however much we may be divided on purely party matters, I personally desire, like every other Member of the House, that the future may bring better times to this country. At the moment, however, I cannot see any hope in the immediate future of the enormous army of unemployed being reabsorbed in industry, so that for some few years, disregarding entirely the increase of unemployment that is taking place, we can see nothing but a total destruction of the health arrangements that now apply in this country. I should like hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to visualise what that may mean in the next few years, particularly in areas where there is deep depression—what it would mean to the widows and children of the enormous number of unemployed in this country to be deprived of medical advice and assistance, and, above all, to the children of the future. We are at this moment severely impairing the prospects of posterity, and, while we desire to have something like Class A skilled men back in industry as quickly as possible, one realises that to cut off medical advice and assistance, is not only permanently impairing the prospects of return, but, when persons do return, they will not be physically fit and competent to do the work that we would have them do. For these reasons we are going to press this to a Division, and we should like to have the assistance of all those who can visualise that the great medical service scheme, of which we should all be proud, is being broken.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 250; Noes, 49.145
|Division No. 231.]||AYES.||[10.42 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Blindell, James||Burnett, John George|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Boulton, W. W.||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Carver, Major William H.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cassels, James Dale|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bracken, Brendan||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester City)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Braithwaite, J. B. (Hillsborough)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Pitsmth, S.)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington E.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Chalmers, John Rutherford|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Birks.,Newb1y)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Bateman, A. L.||Buchan, John||Christie, James Archibald|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Buchan-Hepburn, p. Q. T.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Burghley, Lord||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jamieson, Douglas||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Colville, John||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Ker, J Campbell||Remer, John R.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Copeland, Ida||Kimball, Lawrence||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Knebworth, Viscount||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tsids)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Liddall, Walter S.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Donner, P. W.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Mabane, William||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McKie, John Hamilton||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Elmley, Viscount||McLean, Major Alan||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Maitland, Adam||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Storey, Samuel|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Margeston, Capt. Henry David R.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Martin, Thomas B.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Fuller, Captain A. O.||Meller, Richard James||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Milne, Charles||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chisw'k)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mitcheson, G. G.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Munro, Patrick||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Hales, Harold K.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hartington, Marquess of||North, Captain Edward T.||White, Henry Graham|
|Hartland, George A.||O'Connor, Terence James||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Patrick, Colin M.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pearson, William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Penny, Sir George||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Pike, Cecil F.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Potter, John||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Pybus, Percy John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Major George Davies and Lord Erskine.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Edwards, Charles||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Kirkwood, David|
|Batey, Joseph||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Briant, Frank||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James|
|Buchanan, George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Leonard, William|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, Thomas W.||Logan, David Gilbert|
|'Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Lunn, William|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Daggar, George||Hirst, George Henry||McEntee, Valentine L,|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Holdsworth, Herbert||McGovern, John|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Clay cross)||Jenkins, Sir William||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Maxton, James||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Milner, Major James||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Tinker, John Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Pickering, Ernest H.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. Groves|
|price, Gabriel||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I should like to ask for your guidance Captain Bourne. Though I do not intend to dispute your Ruling in the matter, I should like to ask whether you will allow a discussion upon the Amendment which stands in the names of several of my hon. Friends and myself—in page 3, line 29, to leave out from the word "shall," to the second word "be," in line 32. The Amendment raises an entirely new point, namely, that of the person who is constantly sick; the issue is entirely different from that already discussed. Will you, in consideration of that fact, allow a discussion to take place on the Amendment?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is well aware that under the Standing Orders there is no necessity for me to give any reason why I select or do not select any particular Amendment. The invariable custom of my predecessors has been not to state reasons, and I think I had better adhere to that practice.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Seeing that I am not allowed to put my Amendment, which contained a point of some substance dealing with a most important and vital question, I wish to raise the matter on the Clause. I nearly allowed the Clause to go by, because I understood the leaders of the Opposition would speak against it, but, seeing that they have not done so, we must state our case against it. The first point I want to make is that raised by the Amendment that we wished to bring before the Committee. By that Amendment we wished to delete the words:Until the thirtieth day of June or the thirty-first day of December whichever next follows the day on which he ceases to be so incapable of work.One of our reasons for wanting to move that Amendment was that the Amendments so far have mostly dealt with longtime unemployment. Under prolongation at present a person who is unemployed has his card franked and a person who is sick and who regularly attends the doctor 146 has no need of proof. We ask that the law in regard to sick persons should be continued as it now exists, namely, that the person who is constantly sick should remain inside the health insurance scheme for all purposes connected therewith. One of our criticisms of the Clause is the fact that it takes the person who may be sick for some considerable time outside the scheme. When he replied the Minister said that this Bill made valuable concessions compared with the present law. He says, in effect, that the Bill is an improvement on the present conditions for the sick person or the unemployed. That all depends on the point of view. Under this Clause, it would certainly be an improvement if there was no prolongation of insurance, but one has to remember that prolongation has been on the Statute Book for four successive years and is now looked upon as part of the ordinary law. When the Minister says that the position is improved, it is not improved as compared with the law at the present time and as it has been for the past four years. It is only better, assuming that the Government allow prolongation to lapse and do not continue the provision contained in the Prolongation Act. Therefore, it as not honest to the House to say that this is an improvement. This Clause seeks to limit the rights of the insured person. It makes it obligatory that instead of a person being allowed to come back with one stamp he must have eight stamps, and those eight stamps must be got within 12 months. It provides that by 1935 every person below the age of 58¼ years who has been unemployed for a considerable length of time will pass out of health insurance for other purposes, including old age pensions and widows' pensions. In addition, it deprives certain classes of maternity benefit and of medical benefit. It is a most vicious attack on these classes of person.
I would ask the Minister to show some courtesy to us. He has never answered our point. If you are going to remove certain people from sick benefit, maternity benefit and medical benefit and those people have no other means, who is to 147 maintain them? I ask him that question because he is constantly saying that this is not being done because he likes to do it but because the financial needs of the country demand it. These people will have no resources of their own. In that event, who is to maintain them? If the burden of maintenance is to be transferred to the local people, then it means a transference from national to local funds. Is the Minister prepared to say that the nation has not the money, that we cannot afford to keep these people in these benefits and that, therefore, he washes his hands of them? If so, that argument must apply not only to the nation but to the localities, which are part of the nation. One of the faults in connection with insurance is that few people can read or understand the Acts. We are dealing with simple people and their claim for sickness benefits under these Acts, and yet I defy Members of Parliament to understand the Acts properly—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.