HC Deb 14 June 1932 vol 267 cc361-8

I beg to move, in page 8, line 1, to leave out the word "thereafter."

The date "31st December" is mentioned, and if the word "thereafter" remained and was related to that date, there are certain persons who might lose the benefit of paragraph (a) though it would be inequitable to deny them that benefit.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move in page 8, line 8, to leave out the words "twelve months" and to insert instead thereof the words "three years."

I think this is a very clear and simple Amendment. [Interruption.] These interruptions almost tempt me to go on and explain. The temptation is great, but I see a kindly Minister. He has adopted a much more kindly attitude towards me than his rank and file, and I do not want to punish him for their faults. Earlier I argued about this Bill punishing decent people. I do not want to inflict punishment on one or two decent people. It is true that we shall endeavour to amend the Clause later on. We wish to say "within three years of ceasing to be insured" instead of "within twelve months." The right of a widow's pension should not be taken away from her until the end of three years. The Minister has not given us any concessions so far, and this would be a very kindly concession. I do not know whether he can give us the figures as to those likely to be affected. The number cannot be large. If he cannot give us three years, two years would be a concession in the right direction. The Minister might also give us an estimate of the cost. I hope that if he does not concede the three years, he will concede the two years.


One righteous man found in the city saved it, and I hope I am not going to lose my title, but the truth is that the admission for which the hon. Member asks would be more than a small concession. It would be a very substantial concession from the pecuniary point of view. As I ventured to explain to the Committee at an earlier stage, one must not approach this Bill merely from the point of view that we have kept up things, or that concessions can be squeezed out of us. The Bill is put forward with a carefully balanced series of adjustments in which every possible concession is made, particularly in this matter. The hon. Member wants to extend the pension rights for the unemployed for an additional two years. I am afraid the only answer is that we have gone to the utmost limits of what is prudent in one additional extension of insurance. I am afraid I cannot give the estimate he asks for as the number likely to be affected is really not sus- ceptible to an estimate. As to the amount, I can only tell him that the amount by which I have increased the burden of the Treasury in regard to the Pension Fund by the concessions already given in the Bill is£450, 000. I am afraid it would not be possible to make a further concession.

Question, "That the words 'twelve months 'stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 8, line 23, to leave out the word "continuously." This Amendment—


That Amendment is not selected. I called on the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) first to move the Amendment in page 6, line 37.


I beg to move, in page 8, line 37, to leave out the word "twenty-six" and to insert instead thereof the word "two."

The Minister is asking that twenty-six be taken as the period, and we think it ought to be taken as two. In view of the fact that twenty-six is a prohibitive time, the Minister might now concede to us two, and we hope he will be able to give us some concession.


In this case the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is really looking very deep into the mouth of the gift-horse and trying to extract another tooth. One of the most important things that has been done in order to make a concession to the unemployed contributor has been to say: "We cannot keep you in insurance indefinitely, but we will do so as long as we can, and after you have gone out we will make it as lenient as possible for you to come back." The Bill reduces the present period of qualification for reentry, which is 104 weeks for widows' pensions and five years' continuous insurance for old age pensions, to the very much lower period of 26 weeks only for re-entry. Now the hon. Member for Gorbals suggests that we should cut that 26 down to two. That, of course, is only a device for re-qualification. There must be some satisfactory evidence that the unemployed insured person is re-entering employment. The Committee will agree that we have gone as far as possible to make a practical test of actual re-entry into employment. The substitution of two weeks would be really abolishing the test altogether and destroying the contributory principle.


I do not think the Minister has answered the point in our Amendment, and he is perhaps using an improper description in describing himself as a gift-horse. So far as this Bill is concerned, the gifts on the Committee stage have not been very obvious to us. The Minister says he makes it very easy for a person who has dropped out of Health Insurance to come back. The man who drops completely out of Health Insurance, as the Minister proved on a previous Clause, must have been through a very gruelling time and have had very extended unemployment and been unable to get eight weeks' employment in the preceding 12 months. He is out with social insurance. Then times get better. The Minister expects times to get better. All the Members supporting him in this House expect times to get better. The man gets a job. For six months he is in employment but during the whole of those six months he has to go unprovided for so far as health benefits and medical attention are concerned, and, if he is an old man verging on 65 when he gets his six months' employment, then he has to go without his old age pension, or, if he dies during the period of six months, his dependants get no benefits.

2.30 a.m.

We know exactly the nature of the social problem involved. This will not be in operation long before every Member of this House will be writing to the Minister wanting concessions in particular cases. It is a curious anomaly that a Member who will very easily cast a vote to inflict hardship on a mass will nearly run himself off his feet when he finds that hardship affecting a particular case that has come definitely before his notice. Members of this House who say now that a man once dropped out of Health Insurance cannot re-establish himself in it until he has had 26 weeks of employment—every one of them, I prophesy— will be running to the Minister with hard individual cases asking him to make special concessions for people whom they will all agree have been very hardly hit. We say to the Minister: "Make it easy. Back your fancy. This is Ascot, and we will all be able to go down fresh and bright to the Royal paddock." We say to Members of the Government side: "Back your belief in the revival of industry and the re-establishment of industrial prosperity. Back it to this extent, that you think you can risk having to pay benefit, or old age pension or widows' pension, as the case may be, in the case of a man getting back into a job-back your belief that there will be a revival to the extent of that man's benefit." Make it only two weeks' qualification instead of the six months you are demanding here.

Admittedly, six months is shorter than two years. That is admitted, but notice that in every case it is a man who at some previous time had done his two years' qualifying period. He has been a fully insured man in the past, but has ceased to be insured because of a whole series of unfortunate circumstances. This is not carelessness on the part of the individual man. If I drop my life insurance premiums and die, it is my own fault if the insurance company do not pay the money. I have been careless and have omitted to do something which it was in my power to do. But the man we are talking about has not dropped out through personal carelessness and has not failed to pay his premiums. He has dropped out because the social system has failed to provide him with a job, which is a sine qua non of his being in Health Insurance and in Unemployment Insurance.

The Minister has not given us a solitary concession during the whole course of the Debate. I am not saying that we expected him to keep something up his

Division No. 245.] AYES. [2.36 a.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Broad bent, Colonel John Eastwood, John Francis
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Elliston, Captain George Sampson
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Brown, Ernest (Leith) Emrys-Evans, P. V.
Albery, Irving James Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Entwistle, Cyril Fullard
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Burnett, John George Erskine-Boist, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Caporn, Arthur Cecil Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Everard, W. Lindsay
Atholl, Duchess of Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Chalmers, John Rutherford Ford, Sir Patrick J.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Fox, Sir Gifford
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Frasier, Captain Ian
Balniel, Lord Conant, R. J. E. Fremantle, Sir Francis
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Copeland, Ida Gledhill, Gilbert
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Cranborne, Viscount Glucksteln, Louis Hallo
Beaumont, M. w. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Goff, Sir Park
Beaumont, Hn. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Greene, William P. C.
Blindell, James Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).
Bossom, A. C. Dawson, sir Philip Guntton, Captain D. W.
Boulton, W. W. Donner, P. W. Guy, J. C. Morrison
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Drewe, Cedric Hales, Harold K.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Hanley, Dennis A.

sleeve for concessions. I do not suggest that any Minister ever comes forward holding something in his hand and saying: "I shall give this if I am compelled to give it, but not otherwise." The House knows, and the Minister knows, that in certain aspect of this Bill the Minister is already taking gambling risks. We are asking him to take one more. It is what we call a long shot. I have got the advice of a technical expert in these matters. I understand that, when one is gambling, it is quite the usual thing to mix one's bets, some quite reasonable certainties and some long odds. I ask the Minister, since he has gone into the gambling business, since he is taking risks, to take this one more risk which, so far as the nation is concerned, is putting on a very small bet, but which, so far as the mass of the insured are concerned, would be giving a tremendously big return. It is getting well on in the day now and the proceedings are nearly at an end. They have been very harmonius; I have heard no word of public acrimony, and I ask the Minister to consider whether he could not gladden the heart of all of us by saying: "The request is a reasonable one and I am prepared to consider it." If the Minister remains adamant, and refuses to make that concession, I feel with very great regret that it will be necessary for us to put the Committee to the inconvenience of another Division.

Question put, "That the word 'twenty-six' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 192; Noes, 28.

Harbord, Arthur Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Hartington, Marquess of Marsden, Commander Arthur Rutherford, Sir John Hugo
Hartland, George A. Martin, Thomas B. Salmon, Major Isidore
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Meller, Richard James Salt, Edward W.
Headlam, Lieut. Col. Cuthbert M. Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Savery, Samuel Servington
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Scone, Lord
Holdsworth, Herbert Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Shaw, Captain William T. (Forlar)
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Hornby, Frank Moreing, Adrian C Skelton, Archibald Noel
Horsbrugh, Florence Muirhead, Major A. J. Slater, John
Howard, Tom Forrest Munro, Patrick Somervell, Donald Bradley
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Normand, Wilfrid Guild Stanley Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) O'Connor, Terence James Stevenson, James
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Storey, Samuel
Jamieson, Douglas O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Stourton, Hon. John J.
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Ormiston, Thomas Strickland, Captain W. F.
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Palmer, Francis Noel Stuart, Hon. j. (Moray and Nairn)
Ker, J. Campbell Patrick, Colin M. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Kerr, Hamilton W. Pearson, William G. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Kirkpatrick, William M. Penny, Sir George Sutcliffe, Harold
Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Perkins, Walter R. D. Tate, Mavis Constance
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Petherick, M. Templeton, William P.
Latham, sir Herbert Paul Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Pickering, Ernest H. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Lindsay, Noel Ker Pike, Cecil F. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Llewellin, Major John J. Procter, Major Henry Adam Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Loder, Captain J. de Vere Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Mabane, William Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Wells, Sydney Richard
Mac Andrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Mac Andrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Ratcliffe, Arthur Wills, Wilfrid D.
McCorquodale, M. S. Rathbone, Eleanor Womersley, Walter James
McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Rea, Walter Russell Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
McKie, John Hamilton Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham Wragg, Herbert
McLean, Major Alan Roberts, Aled (Wrexham) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Macmillan, Maurice Harold Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Ross, Ronald D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Runge, Norah Cecil Sir Frederick Thomson and Mr. Shakespeare.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Hirst, George Henry McEntee, Valentine L.
Cape, Thomas Jenkins, Sir William Maxton, James
Cocks, Frederick Seymour John, William Milner, Major James
Daggar, George Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Price, Gabriel
Edwards, Charles Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Tinker, John Joseph
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Kirkwood, David Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Lawson, John James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Grundy, Thomas W. Leonard, William Mr. McGovern and Mr. Buchanan.
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Logan, David Gilbert
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Lunn, William

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


We do not intend to divide against this Clause as on our reading of it the position would be worse if we defeated it. The Minister said that there was an improvement from 104 to 20 and, while nobody confutes that, the position now is that a great mass of people have come under the effect of the prolongation and therefore do not need the 26. The only reason we do not divide against the Clause is because we feel that if the Clause was rejected it would be a definite worsening of the position.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause 9 (Application to Northern Ireland) ordered to stand part of the Bill.