§ The following Amendment stood upon the Paper:
In page 1, line 11, to leave out from the word "the" to the word "and," in line 12, and to insert instead thereof the words:
thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-three."— [Mr.Buchanan.]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I ask, Captain Bourne, why you have not called the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) to leave out the words:and Sections one and two of the Unemployment Insurance (No. 3) Act, 1931"?
I am not calling the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), because it would impose a charge beyond that authorised by the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I point out that that Amendment deals with the Anomalies Act, and the effect of the Anomalies Act is limited to the Insurance Fund proper and, therefore, cannot make any charge on the Exchequer. I cannot understand on what grounds you rule it out.
The hon. Member slightly overlooks the effect of the Amendment. It is true that if the Anomalies Act were left out in the first instance it would put certain people on standard benefit, but the Act of 1930 provides that people who have not had 30 contributions during the last two years shall go on transitional payment. Those people are now excluded by the operation of the Anomalies Act, and, if the 778 Amendment were carried, these people would come on transitional payment and, under the National Economy Act of 1931, would become a charge on the Exchequer and not on the fund. Therefore, it is certain that in some cases it would increase the charge on the Exchequer and is therefore outside the scope of the Financial Resolution.
§ Mr. LAWSON
With all due respect, may I point out to you that there are practically four Acts in this present Measure, and if the Government had chosen to take them separately we should have been dealing with the Anomalies Act on its own merits? It seems to me rather an extension of the Standing Order to apply this Rule to a Bill which is not being dealt with at the present moment. Your Ruling touches two Acts rather than the Bill we are dealing with under the Amendment.
I am not certain that I understand the hon. Member. If His Majesty's Government had wished to repeal the Anomalies Act they would have had to make provision in the Financial Resolution to get the money necessary to pay such transitional payments as might thereby arise and which are now a charge on the Exchequer under another Act, the bulk of which is of a permanent nature and not affected by this Bill.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Is it not the ease that your explanation is based on an hypothesis which may not be found to be correct—namely, that if the Amendment is accepted, certain individuals might be placed upon transitional payments under the Act of 1930? That surely is a problematical reason, and is not an actual fact; it is merely a matter of hypothesis. Is it not stretching the rules of procedure to a rather dangerous length to rule out the Amendment?
No; I think the hon. Member is wrong. Even if I accepted his view that it possibly may not impose a charge, under the Rules of the House that is sufficient to make it impossible for such an Amendment to be moved. But the Amendment goes rather further than that. If the Anomalies Act were repealed certain people who are not now entitled to benefit of any kind would become entitled to standard benefit, and 779 thereby would have an entitlement to transitional benefit, leaving out the effect of the operation of the means test. Therefore they would become a charge on the Exchequer. Under the Rules of the House that is what I cannot permit the hon. Member to move.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out from the word "the," to the word "and," in line 12, and to insert instead thereof the words:thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-three.The effect of the Amendment is to shorten the life of the Bill's operation by six months. It would limit the operation of the Bill to this year. I cannot see how the Government can reasonably refuse the Amendment. I think it would be a good thing if at the end of six months the Government had to come forward and ask the sanction of the House for a continuation of the Bill for another six months. We have been promised another comprehensive Bill between now and the end of the year. Let us assume that the Government do not proceed with that other Measure. Parliament would have practically no means of criticising the Government for such inaction. But if before the end of the year the Government had to seek sanction for a continuation of this Measure, they would have to make a statement in October or November, when we meet again, as to why the larger Measure had not been introduced.
Another reason for moving the Amendment is that this Bill in essence embraces the whole question of the operation of the means test and the Anomalies Act. Consequently it cannot be a good Measure, and we wish to limit its length of operation. More important than that, we think that these Measures are so bad that the more attention the House has to give to them, and the more the Government are compelled to seek permission for a continuation of the Measures, the better it is for the Government, for the Opposition, for Parliament and for the country. Parliament cannot too often face the problems of the unemployed and their remuneration, or the administration of the Anomalies Act. Parliament 780 cannot too often deal with the question of the means test and all that surrounds it. We read about nothing else but the setting up or the threat of commissions. If the Government had to seek further permission for the continuation of this Bill it would mean, in effect, that the whole purpose of creating these commissions could again be discussed and the Government's actions surveyed.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I wish to support the Amendment. None of us wants this Measure, but we recognise that we have to do something to fill the gap. On Friday the Parliamentary Secretary said:The main attack of the Labour party has been, firstly, our delay in bringing in a comprehensive Bill.Later he said:With regard to delay, my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the Debate that no one regretted the delay more than we do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1933; cols. 442 and 443; Vol. 279.]The hon. Gentleman added that it was intended to introduce the comprehensive Bill before the end of the year, and that that meant an Autumn Session. Everyone expected that before the present Bill was brought in we should have had the comprehensive Bill before us. But it has not been introduced. What other pledge have we that the larger Bill will be before us before the end of the Session? This National Government is riding roughshod over the Opposition. It is resting on the big battalions. The Government sometimes tolerate our opinions with a good-humoured tolerance. Now is the time for us to lodge our protest and test what they intend to do. If they really meant what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary there would be no objection to saying, "Well, all right, we will agree to this because we are sure to have the comprehensive Measure before the end of the year." If the Government are unable to bring their Measure forward before the end of the year, we shall have a further opportunity of arguing on the merits or demerits of the present Bill.
There is much that calls for the attention of Parliament. By discussing these matters from time to time we are able to stem many of the injustices connected with transitional payment. Local public assistance committees do not like us to 781 call the attention of the House of Commons from time to time to their work. If at the end of six months the Government are not ready with a comprehensive Bill the Amendment would make sure that this House would be able to deliberate once more on the subject and protest against the provisions of this Bill. No one agrees with the present Bill. I do not think hon. Members opposite agree with it wholeheartedly, and certainly we do not agree with it. The delay that has occurred is not necessary, and I blame the Government for not having brought forward their comprehensive Bill before.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I rise only to say that I hope that if the Committee gives to the Minister the extended period of 12 months in the Bill, he will not regard it as an invitation from the. Committee to occupy that extended time in deliberations. We are all anxious to get this matter settled, and we hope that the Minister to-day will be able to give us some kind of assurance and expectation that it will be done within the period of six months. But, of course, it would not be good for the final prospects of a Measure, which must very vitally affect the lives and homes of large masses of people, if in the concluding stages of its preparation it were hustled by having a fixed date set before it. I should not like this Committee to pass an Amendment which would result in a Measure in the end being ill-considered, but my own vote on this Amendment must depend very largely upon what assurance the Minister is able to give us as to the earnestness with which the Government will endeavour to finish the matter within a reasonable time.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I do not in any way wish to enter into this question in any controversial spirit, but I do hope the Minister will not accept the Amendment. I think all agree with what the first two speakers said on the subject of this Debate. I should be the last person to wish to curtail discussion on this subject, which, after all, does concern every one of our constituencies, and does affect the national life to a very great degree. I have listened to a very large number of Debates on unemployment and Unemployment Insurance Bills, but I have yet to learn of one man who 782 has been put into work by any of those Debates. I say, quite frankly, that I hope the Minister, when he brings in his new Bill, will make it comprehensive enough to be lasting. I do honestly believe that the House of Commons in the last two years would have spent its time very much better in certain other forms of legislation rather than in continually having to revise this kind of legislation.
I cannot at the present moment give illustrations of what I mean, but I do know of things which could be passed by the House of Commons, rather than by taking up the time in other ways between now and Christmas, that would actually put people into work, which is far more important as I see the national position. I am not saying this in any controversial spirit, and I do not wish to see the present very difficult position lengthened for a minute longer than is necessary, but I do think it will be far better if, when we do have to pass a comprehensive Bill dealing with this question, it is one which will have a great deal of consent behind it, and which will avoid the House of Commons perpetually having to discuss this form of legislation.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) must at least be congratulated upon having found an Amendment which is in order, and also upon being able to move an Amendment with the support of the official Opposition. I cannot accept the Amendment, and I will state briefly why. No doubt the Amendment was put down for the purpose of obtaining a statement from the Government, as clear as I can make it, as to what the intention of the Government is with regard to the new Bill which, as everybody who knows anything about it—and we all know something about it—realises must be a very comprehensive, complex and not a short Bill. It is our intention to bring in that Bill and to pass it into law during the period of the present Session. I made that observation last week, and it was, I think, misunderstood in some quarters, because it was thought that the Session would necessarily come to an end in July or August. Of course, that is not necessarily the fact at all, and the Committee realises that there must be an adjournment before the autumn.
783 The hon. Member in his Amendment seeks to limit the present carrying-over Bill to the end of the year. Even if the Amendment were carried, it would not have the effect, I think, that is desired, because, as everybody knows, in a Bill of this kind, after it is passed into law— and I will assume for this purpose that the new Bill is passed into law late this year—it necessarily takes some little time, it may be a few weeks or a few months, before you can get the necessary machinery into operation to carry it out. Therefore, even if this Amendment were passed, it would not mean that we should not have to carry on for some time, which, I hope, will not be unduly prolonged, but for some short time after the Bill is passed into law. With regard to what the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) said, I may, without hesitation, give him the assurance for which he asks. I do not for a moment say that my action is anything more than a precautionary measure, and if we find, as I hope we shall, that it is possible to bring the new scheme into operation before the expiration of this present Bill which we are now considering, no one will be more anxious and more desirous than I am. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) said that he supported this Amendment by way of protest. He is perfectly entitled to do that, but, having made his protest, I hope he will not press his Amendment.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman rightly that he proposed to table his new comprehensive Bill before we adjourn for the Summer Recess, and finish it before this Session closes?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Then, of course, it may not come in this Session at all. It may come next Session or to-day, tomorrow or some day. Nobody knows when. I only got up to say that I rather disagree—and this is quite a personal view—with those who are so anxious to get a very comprehensive Measure. We do not know what it is going to be. I cannot imagine that it will be a Bill which will receive general assent. I do not think that the Government could possibly bring in a Bill to get my consent, so that I should not, if I were the right 784 hon. Gentleman, rely on any easy passage for this wonderful Bill. I should like to remind the hon. Member opposite that they do not propose to bring it in this Session.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. It has previously happened that the Session goes on till December. The Session does not come to an end with the Recess. This Session, for all I know may, and I have no doubt it will, go on after the Recess till some time in the late autumn, as it did last year, and has done many times.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We know that the Session does not end until it ends. It may be, as I said just now, next day, some time or never. It may go on for ever for all we know.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Parliaments are supposed to end in five years. But I do not want to enter into a constitutional argument with the Whip of the Liberal party. I want to tie down the right hon. Gentleman about this. Do I understand the Bill will not be introduced this side of the Adjournment?
§ Sir H. BETTERTONindicated assent.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Then I was right in one thing. My next question was whether it was proposed to pass the Bill this Session. Is it certain that the Bill is going to be passed before this Session ends?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We know that the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. I want to get the fact. I want to be quite sure. You have a good intention of passing the Bill, but you are not at all sure whether you will or not. For my own part I am not greatly concerned about the promised Bill, but hon. Members opposite are as to whether they will vote with us or not, and, apparently, you can only say that by good luck and good fortune you hope to get the Bill through.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to support the Amendment. I am in complete agreement 785 with the Leader of the Opposition in the point of view he expressed that the new comprehensive Measure which is promised, and has been promised for some considerable time, will probably not be a Measure that we would desire to have as the charter of the unemployed in this country. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) stated that very plainly in the Second Reading Debate. But that is not the point Which we want to bring to issue by this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would not, I am sure, want me to interpret his speech to mean that he wants to see the existing treatment of the unemployed continued. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) fell in love with the idea of continuing the operation of the existing legislation.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and myself have learnt in a somewhat bitter school not to expect too much from Governments, and we cannot be accused of having top much faith in the generality of Governments. The only faith that we have is in our own right to air the grievances and claims of the unemployed, and we are asking that we should get that right in six months, and not in 18 months or 12 months. We want on that occasion, not more than six months from now, to make the claim for the unemployed which was made on our behalf before the Royal Commission; a claim which does not differ substantially from that made by the Trade Union Congress, except in one or two points and which was, before the Labour party took office, the official policy of the Labour party. We want to make our demand for the unemployed at the earliest possible opportunity and we are certainly not content to cast a vote in this House in favour of simply continuing the existing treatment. That means the cut benefit which is being paid to the unemployed to-day; it means the Anomalies Act with all the evils arising from it; it means the Means Test and all the investigations; it means the Durham Commissioners and it means widespread misery. To vote for this Bill 786 is to vote for a continuation of those conditions for over a year. We want to limit the existing treatment of the unemployed to the shortest possible period.
Like the Leader of the Opposition, I have no reason to assume that the Minister can undertake more than to do his best to bring forward this new legislation at an early date. I know that Ministers with very good intentions as regards making haste are often delayed by considerations outside their control. For example, there is a Factories Bill, a most imposing piece of legislation, intended to codify all the factory legislation which has been passed since factory legislation began. It was first associated, I think, with the present Lord Bridgeman when he was Home Secretary in a Conservative Government. We were then told that it was about to be introduced, and the Minister was keen on it, but it was not introduced. Later, when Mr. Arthur Henderson became Home Secretary he took over the Measure and made certain modifications in it. He was going to produce this legislation. It has been in the Home Office all the time but it has never been here. It remains somewhere in the offing.
One can well imagine that other preoccupations such as international complications and essential legislation arising out of the deliberations of the World Economic Conference — because presumably the Government assume some measure of success in that assembly— would easily occupy all the time in a very limited Autumn Session. If the Minister finds it impossible to bring in his comprehensive legislation during the Autumn Session then it will have to be carried over to February or March next. All that time the unemployed will continue to exist under the present conditions. The nature of those conditions has been shown by many Members in the course of the Second Reading Debate. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), for instance, showed the serious physical deterioration that is taking place among the unemployed.
To-morrow we shall be discussing the report of the Department of Health for Scotland and we shall find that the figures of infantile mortality and maternal mortality are worse than they have been for years. That is accounted for entirely by the conditions under which most of 787 our unemployed in Scotland have to live. It is a shocking thing that the infantile mortality rate which had been tending downwards should now be going upwards, and that in connection with maternal mortality, one of the most obstinate problems which this country has to face, figures which were being, if not reduced, at least brought to a stationary point, should now be on the upward grade. Yet we are asked to give the Minister power to extend the duration of conditions that are working such havoc in our population. We are asked to continue those conditions for a long period of time. We, on these benches, say that the shortest period of time possible is the period for which such conditions should be imposed and that is the purpose of our Amendment.
I put another consideration to the Minister. I do not claim to have a perfect understanding of the policy of the National Government. I question if anyone really understands what they are trying to get at but if I have, in a vague general way, any idea of the intention of the Government in their work up to now, I think it has been to develop our home market and our home production. The effective legislation towards that end, we are told, has been passed and is now working, and in many newspapers that support the Government I see claims that, industrially and economically, the nation has now passed the bottom of the curve and that its trade and industry are on the up-grade. We are told that the figures in many important industries are showing an upward trend for the first time for years, and that imports and ex-portes make a better showing during the month just completed than they have done for a very long time previously. If it be true that the policy of the National Government is producing fruits then it is only right and proper that they should now reconsider the temporary economies which were imposed upon the unemployed.
Remember that the National Government got its sweeping majority at the General Election by making the mass of people believe that if they would only submit temporarily to privations—for a limited period of time—then, as soon as things began to get better, the conditions which existed previously would be restored. The population of this country, 788 trusting in that promise, gave the Government a tremendous mandate. If the desperate conditions which were imposed, as a temporary measure, on the poorest sections of the community are maintained a minute longer than absolutely desperate national need compels, it will be an act of the most dishonourable nature towards a trusting and confiding section of the population. We have listened to many lectures from Ministers in this Parliament on the sanctity of a Government's word. We have been told that a bargain made between two nations must be kept at all costs—that to break such a bargain would be an act of the deepest-dyed treachery. If that be true, what can be said of the action of a Government, deriving its power and its mandate from its own people, whose people in giving it that power have imposed upon themselves terrible standards of life, believing, as they had been told, that temporary sacrifice would save the situation—what can be said of such a Government, if, when the sacrifice has been made and the desperate situation has been escaped from, they continue for an extended period conditions of abject poverty among the people. To do so is dishonourable and treacherous. It is something which debases the public life of the nation to the lowest depths. If the Government believe that their policy has produced results, if they believe that trade and industry are now on the up-grade it is their duty, in the months that lie immediately ahead, to take the burdens which they imposed on the shoulders of the poorest off those shoulders and to give the people at least conditions that will enable them to maintain physical efficiency.
There is the further consideration that, if the Government policy is directed towards making the home market of more importance than the foreign market, the first essential to trading in the home market is a home market in which to trade. The spending power of 3,000,000 people and their dependants is a tremendously important fraction of the total national trade and one cannot regard the unemployed man with 15s. 3d. a week—subject to deductions after investigations into the family income—as an effective consumer in the home market. From all these points of view we urge the Government to accept the earlier date which we propose. We ask them to be ready in the 789 autumn with new legislation of a kind which will recognise that the unemployed people are also Britishers, that they are not as my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) once aptly put it, a class apart, a group of untouchables to be treated as meanly and bought off as cheaply as possible.
§ Mr. MAXTON
We urge the Government to remember that the unemployed are citizens of this country and important factors in our national life. Bring forward legislation that recognises them as human beings and our equals, and I am certain that, if the Minister approaches the framing of his new legislation in that frame of mind and puts it before this House in concrete terms—it need not be a complicated and an abstruse Measure, but can be a simple, plain Measure, easy to understand—and if it embodies that principle of generosity and recognition of equality, there will be no difficulty from any section of the Opposition in getting it through this House in a limited period of time.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I rise to support the Amendment, not because I think the comprehensive Bill promised by the Government will be of any use at all, but because I do not believe in procrastination, because I think that six months is quite long enough a period in which to face the issue, and because I feel that, outside, the unthinking or the thinking people will have an opportunity in that time of understanding the complexion of the National Government. While I have been in this House I have seen the danger of the means test and the Anomalies Act, and I want this issue to be quite clear to the House, so that we shall be able in the Bill to have reasoned and honest opinions expressed. There are many difficulties, and they are very complex, and therefore I think six months is the right and proper time to allow.
None of the Members of the National Government can honestly say that they have had a mandate from the people for this legislation. The national difficulty got the upper hand of a great many people in this country, but when one begins to consider the great economies that have been effected, and when we are 790 told, as we are very often, that now we are substantially solvent, I imagine that the 3,000,000 people outside who are suffering will find the time quite ready for an adjustment to be made with regard to their living conditions. I do not believe in revolution by bloodshed, but I do believe in revolution by constitutional methods, and I want to see some life put into the body politic that will make us believe that we have a National Government dealing with our affairs. Foreign politics are discussed ad lib. in this House.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I say "rambled" with all due respect, but the hon. Member was covering a great deal of ground, and I thought it was very useful for my purposes. I will, however, confine myself to the point with regard to six months. No one would be more satisfied and content if such a thing as contentment and peace of mind could come to a Minister of the National Government. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will get that.Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.I do not think that applies to any Members of the House of Commons, and I do not think the Minister will enjoy any peace when he brings forward his Bill in 12 months' time. Ministers are filled with anxiety. Procrastination may kill a good British Minister, and I want him to be long-lived and to get rid of his misery in six months instead of waiting 12 months. I am sure it would relieve the anxiety of many of the absentee Members of this House, who only come occasionally, if we could get rid of the question of unemployment. It would salve their conscience, and they would be able to tell some pretty stories in their constituencies to the unemployed as to how very well the House of Commons was getting on with regard to them. Further, from the 791 point of view of keeping them contented, I think the Minister should be anxious to get this difficulty out of the way within six months. If it does not lead to mental cases among the unemployed, it will certainly lead to mental cases among Members of Parliament, because they will be inundated by the applications made to them by their constituents.
This is a serious problem, and I am convinced that the hon. Member who moved this Amendment has brought it forward in the best interests of the unemployed. This tragedy of unemployment ought to be dealt with, and the National Government are not going to live for ever. I know there is a measure to their capacity, and everybody outside knows their measure, if it is not known much inside this House. I think six months is quite long enough. I know that it takes Cabinet Ministers in the National Government a long time to make up their minds, and sometimes it is very hard to know whether there is any mind to make up, but if a time-limit were specified, they would have to have someone to make them understand that they had to do something within the period of six months. Six months to unemployed men is a long time. In those six months are we going to have a complete change, and are we going to have commissioners appointed in the industrial areas? I am anxious to know. I do not want to go on for 12 months thinking that everything is all right, because I am satisfied that it is not, and for the peace of the country, for the tranquillity of Members of the Labour party, and for the unbalancing of the National Government, the sooner they face this issue the better. I therefore support the Amendment.
§ 4.39 p.m.
As usual, the Opposition are very unreasonable, as is shown by the fact that their arguments have wandered between the last General Election, the World Economic Conference, and the Scottish Estimates to-morrow; and even foreign politics were tried by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), without success. Everybody in this House and outside knows that the question of permanent unemployment legislationh has occupied the attention of the Department, of the Minister, and of the Government for a very long time past.
It is not for the Opposition to say that. It was in the time of Miss Bondfield that we had—
We had a great many delays in her time in dealing with the general problem, which was afterwards referred to a Royal Commission, and I am certain that the Minister knows quite well the great anxiety that is felt in this part of the House that adequate permanent legislation should be introduced as soon as possible. It is a little unreasonable, when my right hon. Friend has given us the only possible assurance that he can give us, namely, that he intends to introduce the Measure and to pass it into law before the Session ends, for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to pooh-pooh that assurance, if he only carries his mind back to the activities of Miss Bondfield on this particular question.
The suggestion that I want to make to my right hon. Friend the Minister, in case it has not crossed his mind, is that when the new Bill comes, it will be very complicated, and it will probably, as he foreshadowed in his Second Reading speech, involve great and fundamental changes in administration. I therefore hope that before we rise for the summer Recess, be will introduce it in dummy form, so that it can be printed and circulated during the holidays, in order that we may have the opportunity of studying it and discussing it with the people, with the local authorities and so on, who may be concerned in parts of it. Then, when it comes up for discussion in this House, it will be discussion based, so far as Members of this House are concerned, on very serious consideration, and it will not be one of those Bills which are sometimes introduced in a great hurry, particularly in the autumn Session, and are not given adequate time for consideration.
I have been disappointed, like many other hon. Members, that there should have been this great delay in introducing 793 the Bill. I have no hesitation in saying that, because it has been a matter of discussion for a very long time as to why the Government have not found it possible to introduce the Bill. We do not know the reason, but the Minister has given us his assurance to-day that it is his intention to bring it in this Session. If a Minister gives an assurance of his intentions, and they are not carried out, Members generally find that there are steps to take to show the disapproval of his colleagues, but I am sure that the Minister will do his best to live up to his intentions in this matter. No one can say what will happen in three or six months' time, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will agree, but with the promise that we have had, I hope we shall have adequate time in the autumn to discuss the Bill, that it will not be discussed late at night for several weeks, and that, in order to facilitate its discussion, we may have it, if not in dummy form, then in draft form, so that it may be discussed during those months when we have more leisure than we can have during a busy autumn Session.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
In view of what the Minister has said, not only to-day, but especially when he made his first statement, on the Second Beading of the Bill, I should like to urge on the Opposition the fact that if their Amendment were carried, they would be doing more harm to the hardest-hit section of the unemployed, especially those in receipt of Poor Law relief and transitional payment, than they could possibly hope to do good. The Minister pointed out to the House that if the original Amendment were carried, it would mean the elimination of the extended benefit to ex-service pensioners and to men in receipt of workmen's compensation, and it would mean, he said, the complete revival of the "genuinely seeking work" condition.
I think the hon. Member is speaking to the Amendment which was moved on the Second Reading of the Bill rather than to the Amendment now before the Committee. If the present Amendment were adopted, none of the consequences to which he was calling attention would follow.
§ Mr. PIKE
I was attempting to point out that, if this Amendment were carried, it would have at the end of six months precisely the same effect as the other Amendment would have had. I only want to be assured that the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment has no desire to bring about those losses in the small, but nevertheless invaluable, benefits which have been gained for a section of the unemployed workers. I am convinced that the Amendment will certainly have one effect. I can understand the Opposition absolutely wallowing in the idea of the Amendment being carried, because it will give them the opportunity, for which they always anxiously look, of bringing forward on the Floor of the House and in the country at every conceivable moment the grumbles that they consider to be the grumbles of the unemployed.
No one denies the right of the Opposition to claim that they alone can place the case of the unemployed before the country, but it is as well to realise that an Amendment of this description, if carried, would not add one iota to the solution of the problems of the unemployed people. All it would do would be to afford facilities for again raking over the arguments of the past and possibly the arguments of the moment, not for the purpose of improving the conditions of the unemployed, but for the purpose of belittling the Government who are making a genuine attempt to solve their problems. I am sure that the unemployed do not want attempts at a solution of their problems made in this direction. It would be better if the Opposition withdrew this Amendment and allowed the Government to bring in as speedy a presentation of the ultimate comprehensive Measure as they can. That would show some direct line of sympathy with the problems of the unemployed and would show some sincere determination on the part of the Opposition to assist the Government in the presentation of their comprehensive Measure. I ask the Government to oppose the Amendment with all their strength, and I am sure that in doing so they will have the support of the unemployed people.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. DOBBIE
I am surprised to hear the statements made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), for the Govern- 795 ment have had plenty of chance, time and opportunity to deal with this problem. This Bill asks the unemployed to wait for another year, but the unemployed have waited long enough. The Government were not returned for the purpose of playing about with the problem for close upon two years and then to introduce a Bill to extend the present system for another year. They were returned to power on a promise to find work for the people, to safeguard their savings, to bring about an era of prosperity, and to take all necessary measures for this purpose. The Government have carried on nothing but a policy of procrastination. Those of us who live among the unemployed know that they have been looking to the Government, but they are not looking now to this Government because they are filled with nothing but despair at the attitude and conduct of the Government towards them. I have a few human documents in my hand, and I want to associate myself with all that has been said about the means test. We want to bring it to an end as speedily as we can. I have here statements from people in my constituency showing that disability pensions of men are taken into consideration when dealing with the benefit of their sons and sons-in-law. I come from a constituency where the public assistance committee, with the approbation of the people, have refused to administer the means test, and where there is operating a commissioner whose inhuman conduct is backed by the Minister of Labour. When the trade unions and people in the constituency have asked the commissioner to receive a deputation to discuss the situation—
The hon. Member now appears to be raising a pure matter of administration. The proper time to do that will be on the Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. DOBBIE
I have not intervened much in the Debates. I may be new to the procedure of this House, but I am bringing here a message from destitute women, from hungry unemployed men who are demanding that I should speak on the Floor of the House of Commons. Whether I am doing it in a Parliamentary manner or not, I want to voice the opinion of the destitute and desperate 796 hungry men and women. Whether I may be within the Rules of Parliamentary procedure or not for the moment, I do not care.
The hon. Member must abide by the Rules of the House of Commons. He must raise this matter on the proper occasion.
§ Mr. KIRK WOOD
Do justly as lightly as you can, and do not be ready to jump up at the first chance.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) must not criticise the Chair.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. It is within your recollection that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) covered an extremely wide field, and certainly raised the question of destitution of men, women and children. He even referred to what is going to happen tomorrow in the Committee of the House. Surely the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) is entitled to give the same kind of reasons why he wants this Bill limited to six months in order that a new Bill may come forward.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) confined his arguments to giving instances which, if this Amendment were carried and a new Bill had to be brought in if six months, would, he hoped, be terminated by the new legislation. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) now appears to me to be raising a complaint on a matter of pure administration, and I pointed out to him that, if he wishes to make that complaint, he should do it on the Estimate later this evening. He will be quite in order to argue that this Bill should not be continued for more than six months because of certain conditions that exist.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The point which my hon. Friend is endeavouring to make is that he wants an end put to the law which allows certain administrative acts to take place and because of the hardship which it inflicts on certain men, women and children. I respectfully suggest that he has a right to do that seeing that the hon. Member for Bridgeton based his whole argument on the same point.
I did not understand the hon. Member for Rother- 797 ham to be making that argument. I understood him to be raising a specific point with regard to administrative action. If he wishes to do that, as I believe other hon. Members wish to do it, the proper time is on the Supplementary Estimate, which is the time to criticise administration. I did not understand him to be bringing that argument forward as a reason why the Bill should continue for six months instead of one year.
§ Mr. DOBBIE
I want to do all I can to shorten the period of this Bill, and I was giving illustrations and reasons to support that. Among those reasons is the fact that we who live among these people, those of us whose lives are their lives, feel that we are well nigh the breaking point. I was endeavouring to give one or two illustrations to prove my point, and I wanted to give them from the people I represent and who sent me to deliver a message here, believing as they do that this House cares not for the position of the unemployed. I would ask the hon. Member for Attercliffe to come to my constituency with the story that he has told the Committee. I would ask hon. Members to remember that there are over 2,000,000 unemployed people in this country, and Parliamentary procedure is not going to save them. They are anxious for the Government and the House of Commons to give some demonstration that they are sympathetic and are endeavouring to help. I want to mention the case of a miner who is a widower living in my constituency and working five days a week. He receives 38s. 9d. a week. He works seven miles from where he lives, so that his travelling expenses are fairly large. He has a daughter of 15 who lives with him, four or five other children, and a son aged 21 who lives in the house. The son has had his unemployment pay reduced from 12s. 6d. to 5s.
We are asking the Government to reduce the period of this Bill to six months because we think that a year is too long for these conditions to exist. It will stand to the everlasting disgrace of the House if it rises for the Autumn Session while the unemployed are left in the condition in which they are at the present time. I want to make my protest against this cold, callous cruel and indifferent treatment of the well-dressed and well-fed people in this Assembly 798 towards the destitute and hungry people of this country.
§ Mr. DOBBIE
The well-dressed, rich people here may laugh and sneer at the unemployed. They will laugh and sneer at them once too often. Perhaps the Noble Lady will go to Plymouth and sneer in the face of the unemployed. She cannot help it; where there is no sense there is no feeling. I have numbers of instances of the treatment of men who from 1914 to 1918 were promised, because they rallied to the Colours, that certain conditions would be applied to them. Those instances are reasons why we want the period of this Bill to be shortened. The Government have power, knowledge and ability if they had the will to deal with the unemployed problem. There has not for a long time been a Government with such a large majority and that could work their will in the legislation of the country if they had the desire to do it. They have the capacity, the ability and the money, but they have not the desire. I am confident by the conduct of the Government, by the way in which they have wilfully violated every promise they made to trusting poor people, that at the end of 12 months we shall get a Bill similar in character to the one now before us, if not worse, which will certainly do very little to alleviate the condition of the unemployed. If there is a vestige of desire in the Government to do something to help the unemployed they will have no hesitation in accepting the Amendment, and agreeing not only that the period shall be six months, but that there shall be no Autumn Session. It will stand to the everlasting disgrace of this Assembly, as I will tell the Noble Lady again, if the rich, well-dressed people of this Assembly—
§ Mr. DOBBIE
It gives real pain to listen to her. She said she did not drink champagne. I do not know if she has any cause to tell us that she does not drink champagne. Some of us cannot afford to do it. I ask the Minister, in view of all the circumstances, in view of all the cases we have, in view of how hard the people of this country have 799 been hit, in view of the way in which the Commissioners are acting, treating people as if they were criminals—
§ Mr. DOBBIE
I am going to say here that I apologise for no man and no Government. There are some women you could not apologise for. I have said very little of previous Governments, because I want the men and women in this Assembly not to think so much about the Governments of the past but to remember their sacred responsibilities of the moment. It is no good talking about who was responsible for the Anomalies Act. The present Government are the Government of the day, and I ask them to remember that this is a desperate and serious question for many of us. Those of us who have had experience of unemployment, those of us who know what it is to be unemployed month after month, who know what it is to stand at the factory gate and to see some men picked and us left on the street, know the seriousness of the problem better than the right hon. Gentlemen in front of us. No matter who is responsible for the Anomalies Act, no matter who is responsible for the means test, hon. Members opposite must remember that they are responsible for the Government of the day, they are responsible for its continuity, they are responsible for the unemployment that is in existence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh !"] Well, they are responsible for the system which exists to-day, a system which will always demand a great army of unemployed. We are not responsible for it, the unemployed are not responsible for it, but we say that every man under the existing system of society, which is not ours—
§ Mr. DOBBIE
Well, I am glad you have not accused me of saying it is not true, anyway. What I want to say is that we are asking that the period should be six months instead of 12 months because of all the conditions I have described, and those of us who come from constituencies with a mandate from the people demand on behalf of the unemployed the right to work or the right to 800 live. Because of these things we say to the House, "Maintenance on a humane and decent basis and the abolition of your means test and your anomalies test." I want to see the Anomalies Bill removed. I would be prepared to give unemployed pay to anyone who is out of work, provided he is prepared to take his stand in the queue. The test should be, "Are they ready, able and willing to give service to the nation?" Because of these things I ask the House to back up and carry the Amendment.
§ 5.6 p.m.
I do hope I shall be permitted to answer this vigorous attack on the Government by hon. Members who feel so bitterly the plight of the unemployed, and the poverty, and misery, and want, and woe and who speak with such eloquence, particularly when they have got a pretty safe job themselves. But I am not going to dwell on that.
If an hon. Member who is new to this House does not keep strictly within the Rules of Order we cannot make that an excuse for other hon. Members to follow that course. The Noble Lady has sat here quite long enough to know the Rules of Order.
I only want to say that I am deeply grateful to the Government for giving us the assurance that they will bring in a Bill in the autumn. I think that ought to satisfy even the Members of the Opposition. We are grateful because we do not want the Government to be anything like the late Government. Some of us sat in this House for weeks and months hearing all these passionate appeals about unemployment and saw that Government sitting down and doing nothing. Many of us have been getting a little nervous about the National Government, and we are really relieved to see that at last 801 they have patched up what differences there may have been and are going to bring in an all-round scheme. We congratulate the Government on having at last made up their minds.
If they have; and we hope that the Opposition, now that they have made their speeches and "got it off their chest" will withdraw the Amendment and let us get on to the next, as there are so many things I want to speak about which I cannot deal with on this Amendment. May I speak on the next Amendment if I sit down now? There are one or two things which I really want to speak about, Captain Bourne, and I hope very much that if I do sit down now I shall be called on the next Amendment.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Captain Margesson)
Wait for the Supplementary Estimate.
No, it is not bribery. I may say that many of us would really back this Amendment if we had not got that pledge about the Bill, although we think it is a perfectly useless Amendment. We do not think it would do any good, but we would have backed it to ginger up the Government and to show them that the Members behind them are just as much interested, and possibly far more interested, in the unemployed than the people who have gone on talking about them without using any thought. They have made speech after speech for 15 years and not used their heads, as far as we can see. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to say, "Hear, hear." I should think he is probably the worst offender in the whole House. All he did when he got in was to provide a few paddling pools for kiddies.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 263; Noes, 41.803
|Division No. 233.]||AYES.||[5.10 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Christie, James Archibald||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Clarke, Frank||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Clarry, Reginald George||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Glucksteln, Louis Halle|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||God. Sir Park|
|Apsley, Lord||colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Cooke, Douglas||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth. Sutton)||Cooper, A. Duff||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Graves, Marjorle|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (1. of Thanet)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Greene, William P. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Crooke, J. Smedley||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Barrle, Sir Charles Coupar||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Griffith, F. Kingslay (Mlddlesbro,W).|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Grigg, Sir Edward|
|Bernays, Robert||Cross. R. H.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (York, Skipton)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Blindell, James||Davles, Maj.Geo. P. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Hales, Harold K.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hamilton, sir George (Ilford)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Boulton, W. w.||Denville, Alfred||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Dickie, John P.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Briant, Frank||Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Broadbent. Colonel John||Donner, P. W.||Hartland, George A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Doran, Edward||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Drewe, Cedrle||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Duggan, Hubert John||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Burnett, John George||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Dunglass, Lord||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Elmley, Viscount||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hornby, Frank|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Entwistle, Cyrll Fullard||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney.N.)||Moreing, Adrian C.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine.C.)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essax, Roml'u)||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Iveagh, Countess of||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Patrick, Colin M.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Peake, Captain Osbert||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Johnston, J.W. (Clackmannan)||Pearson, William G.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Peat, Charles U.||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stones, James|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Petherick. M.||Storey, Samuel|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Pike, Cecil F.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Power, Sir John Cecil||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pybus, Percy John||Templeton, William P.|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Law. Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Thompson, Luke|
|Lees-Jones, John||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Rankin, Robert||Train, John|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd.Gr'n)||Rea, Walter Russell||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lockwood, John C (Hackney, C.)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Vaughan-M organ, Sir Kenyon|
|Mabane, William||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Mac Andrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wardlaw-Mline, Sir John S.|
|Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Ross, Ronald D.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Wedderburn,Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|McKeag, William||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Maclay. Hon. Joseph Paton||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Salmon, Sir Isldore||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Salt, Edward W.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Womersley, Walter James|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Slater, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Milne, Charles||Smiles. Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Lord Erskine.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Buchanan, George||Hirst, George Henry||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Williams. Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Dobble, William||Leonard, William|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lunn, William.||Mr. John and Mr. Groves|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
During the Debate upon the Second Reading, statements were made by the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary regarding the position of the unemployed. I wish to ask the Minister what his intentions are in regard to the regulations that have been issued and that 804 have been operated by his Department under the Anomalies Act as well as in regard to the means test. The Minister has been good enough to furnish Members of the Committee with the report which he promised upon the operation of the regulations made under the Anomalies Act, and in an appendix he provides what I think I am right in calling the consolidated decisions or the codified decisions of the umpire. Those decisions were published in the sixth 805 pamphlet for last year, the June issue, and the Minister and his Department had it in front of them for 12 months. While it gives the codified decisions, and includes the umpire's previous decisions upon other decision, given by him in November, 1931, and presented in pamphlet 11, covers quite a number of the points made in the codified decisions.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has noticed that the umpire refers to a point which I made last Wednesday, pointing out practically what the Minister had in mind and what the Royal Commission and the Advisory Committee had in mind. The Minister will find that in the November pamphlet for 1931, on page 243 of the yearly volume. In that decision, which is a codified decision also, dealing with practically the same question, the umpire argues the point rather more clearly than he does in the latest codified decisions. He points out that the Minister declined to accept a suggestion of the Advisory Committee because the Minister preferred to accept the wording of the Royal Commission. The interpretation placed upon the wording in the Report of the Royal Commission which the Minister selected, as was pointed out by the Majority and Minority Reports of the Commission, has caused many married women to be refused unemployment benefit, though, in the considered opinion of the Royal Commission, they were justly entitled to benefit.
The Minister has had the decisions before him for all these months, since November, 1931, when he issued the first codified decisions, and June, 1932, when he brought out the final decisions. The General Council of the Trades Union Congress Have brought to his notice the hardships of decisions that have been carried out owing to the regulations which have been issued, and requests have been made to him to reconsider those regulations. The General Council have asked him to call together his advisory committee in order to consider fresh draft regulations. The Minister has left it for rather a long time. The advisory committee stated that he ought to consider, and they were agreed to pass, a certain regulation or part of a regulation. If that part of a regulation operated harshly, the Minister ought to have called the advisory committee together in order to draft a fresh regulation. The Minister 806 has not thought it worth his while, or probably has not had it brought to his notice, that the advisory committee should be called together to consider a new regulation.
It is too late to make any complaints, but now that we are being asked for an extension of the Act in order that we may get round a particular corner, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bring the advisory committee, set up under the Act, together again, and in the light of the experience which his Department has, and in view of the codified decisions of the Umpire, to whom all cases sent by courts of referees and insurance officers are finally referred and who has the last word, above which even the Minister of Labour cannot go, to frame further regulations to remove the hardships and the inconsistencies to which attention has been drawn by the advisory committee and by the majority and minority reports of the commission. These matters should be put right, so that there may be no fear of any repetition of that situation in the course of the next 12 months, after the operation of the Act is extended.
On Friday last, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour made a reference to the advantages which the reduced rates of benefit conferred upon the people, over what they received prior to the reduction in the rates of benefit by the National Government. He spoke of the single man with 15s. 3d., and said that that was now worth actually more than the 18s. which he was previously receiving, owing to the fall in the cost of living figures. I do not want to debate whether or not the amount of wages or benefit paid to a worker or to an unemployed worker should be based on the cost of living figures, but to my mind that is not a proper way of assessing human values. The cost of living figures may be all very well in assessing the value of livestock, but not in assessing the value of human beings, and, while it may be accurate to say that the 15s. 3d. which the single man now receives under the various Measures of the National Government would purchase more than the 18s. which previously was the unemployment benefit, I wish the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of Labour generally—not individually—would consider 807 this question from a more human point of view.
After all, the value of human beings, and particularly unemployed men and women, should not be assessed on a livestock principle. Man is surely more to society, he is surely more, or ought to be, in the eyes of his fellows than the ox in the stall or the horse in the stable, and I hope that, in any fresh Regulations which may be framed, a little more of the human element will be introduced, a little more of the desire to see that those who are to receive the unemployment benefit to which the Regulations will entitle them will get at least sufficient through those Regulations to meet their human needs, and that the matter will be considered, not on the basis of the cost of living figures as indicated generally by Government Departments, but from the human side, and that the Regulations will be framed in such a manner as to enable the Minister to come down without fear of attack from any quarter of the House because of the inhuman way in which the previous Regulations have operated with regard to certain of those who are unemployed.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
This Clause is really the operative part of the Bill. It does two things. In the first place, it continues the Act of 1930, passed by the Labour Government, with the subsequent modifications of it which were brought in by the National Government. As the Minister has explained, that carried with it the abolition of the "not genuinely seeking work" provision. While, however, this Clause seeks to carry into effect the Act of 1930, one cannot dismiss from one's mind the fact that that Act was modified considerably by Order in Council, and, while it is being continued, it is only continued so far as certain parts of it are concerned; in other vital parts it is not the Act that was passed in 1930. The Clause also seeks to continue the Act, passed by the Labour Government in 1931, which is known as the Anomalies Act. I propose to try to examine the real effects of the Clause, and, therefore, of the Bill itself. I desire, as dispassionately as I can, to examine the effects of these Measures.
The Act of 1930 abolished the "not genuinely seeking work" provision, and 808 it was stated by the Minister that interference with the Act of 1930 would involve interference also with that part of the Act which abolished the "not genuinely seeking work" provision. That statement, so far, has not been answered. It is true that, if we did not continue the Act of 1930, the "not genuinely seeking work" provision would possibly, as a consequence, be reimposed, but there are two simple and direct answers on that point. The great majority of the people who were disallowed benefit under the "not genuinely seeking work" provision belong to two groups. First, there are those who have ceased to have 30 stamps, and who, consequently, are outside the insurance limit; and, secondly, there are the classes, like married women, who are now dealt with by the Anomalies Act. Those two groups are now, for all practical purposes, dealt with by other agencies.
Take the case of the man who has been out of work for some time. It is true that the "not genuinely seeking work" test is not applied in his case, but a new test has been substituted, namely, the test as to whether he is normally in insurable employment. It was pointed out in the course of the Debate that the increase which had taken place in the number who were not normally in insurable employment took place the moment the "not genuinely seeking work" provision was abolished. Even under the Labour Government, the moment that provision was abolished the number of those who were regarded as not being normally in insurable employment increased almost two-fold. No new Act had been passed, but those who were outside the 30 contributions qualification were immediately dealt with as not being normally in insurable employment and, consequently, those people are not affected. The other class consists in the main of those who are now being dealt with under the Anomalies Act. Consequently, the value which the "not genuinely seeking work" abolition had at the time when it was passed has gradually disappeared, and the test as to being normally in insurable employment has been used as a substitute for it. That is proved by the rapid increase in the numbers who are regarded as not being normally in insurable employment.
The reply of the Minister is that this point is dealt with by the legal autho- 809 rities—that he has no control over it, but that it is done by the Umpire and the courts of referees, who are constituted by Act of Parliament independently of the Minister. That, however, is only an answer to those who do not know unemployment insurance. It is a simple answer to give to those who come to the House of Commons and ask questions, but it is no answer to those who understand the administration. The Minister knows that no case can go before a court of referees unless it is brought there by the insurance officer, and the insurance officer is the Minister's servant. The insurance officer acts as the Minister's employe, and the Minister is directly responsible for every insurance officer in the country. If I may, with my limited knowledge of law, venture to use a legal parallel, a man is only prosecuted, either in Scotland or in England, if there is somebody to prosecute him. If nobody makes a charge against him, then, even though he may have done the crime, there is no prosecution.
In the same way, the court of referees cannot adjudicate on a case unless the Minister's servant brings it before them, and, consequently, the Minister in the first place is responsible because, it is his servants, who are directly under his authority, who bring cases before the courts of referees; and, more than that, to a certain extent they frame the indictment. At the foot of the form for such cases there are questions as to what are the prospects of work, how it is being sought, and what the person is doing. The insurance officer passes his comments on those matters, and thus frames the indictment, and, consequently, the whole claim is prejudged, or, at any rate, if that is putting it too high, it would not be dealt with but for the action of the Minister's servant. Consequently, if the Minister says that these matters are outside his jurisdiction, he ignores the fact that it is his servants who are directly under his control, guidance and authority who place the unemployed in the position in which they are.
While the Act of 1930 was comparatively beneficent in the sense that it increased the amounts, those amounts have now been decreased, and it has lost its beneficence to that extent. Moreover, while it was beneficent in the sense that it abolished the "not-genuinely-seeking- 810 work" provision, the device that has since been adopted has to a large extent nullified its usefulness in that respect. With regard to the Anomalies Act, I am not going over the ground that I covered on Friday last, but I want to try to make out what I think is the reasoned case for the rejection of this Bill. An hon. Gentleman speaking from the front Labour bench made what I considered to be a very manly speech in defence of the Act. He said that he had walked through the Lobbies and voted for it, and would do so again. I do not mind him saying that, but I think it is a terrible thing for a Labour man to confess. Hitherto the Labour movement has stood for this simple test that, if a man was prepared to stand in a queue, he was entitled to decent maintenance. On Friday Members were annoyed with me because I said I was bitter. I am bitter. I have defended more people at Employment Exchanges in the last five years than almost any other person. Never one day when Parliament was not sitting was I absent from the Exchange. [Interruption.] I will take the hon. Member's figures and, if I am wrong, I will apologise, but my type of case must be different from mining division cases and, when one comes across them, one must feel bitter. My kith and kin, terribly poor people, have been cut off benefit and I am entitled to be angry. When a man votes Tory, he knows that he is going to be robbed, and never has the Tory party disappointed him.
I have two or three cases which I should like hon. Members to face up to. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) and I were approached by a number of decent men who were not spongers, almost every one of them served in the War. They were lamplighters. They lit the lamps in winter, but not in summer. They get 30 weeks' work every year. At the end of the time they cannot get any more work, and they get no benefit. If they were pattern makers or miners they would get 26 weeks' standard benefit. Why should they be refused benefit? What crime have they committed? They were clean and tidy. Some of them were Communists, some were Labour and some were Tory. One of them had a pension of £l a week and he had to live on it. He got no public assistance until someone intervened on his behalf. It is shocking that they 811 should be refused. I have a letter here from a decent woman in a town that was represented by the Lord Privy Seal in the Labour Government. I am angry because the Lord Privy Seal in the Labour Government backed the Bill. The writer says:I do not reside in your division, but I should esteem it a great help if you would give me advice. For 13 years I have been employed by the Calico Printers, but they shut down in Lennox-town in 1929. As I was unable to obtain insurable work of any kind during the first year I thought I would go further afield, so the following year I went to Rothesay of my own accord and, although inexperienced, I got a job in a boarding house there. The work was hard, but I preferred it to nothing at all. I stayed there from June till October, 16 weeks in all, then I was sent home. I tried my very best to get work in Glasgow as a tea-room waitress. I was then experienced, but, although I was promised first chance at a few places, I was still unemployed five months later, when my employer sent for me in March. Being only too glad to take anything, I went back and worked for 28 weeks and got stamps. My stamps for two years were 44–14 above the insurance qualification. I came home in October last. I applied for unemployment benefit, and I was summoned to a court of referees and turned down as a seasonal worker.She then got leave to appeal to the umpire. I go to the umpire regularly. He has stretched the Act as humanly as ever a man could, and it is not fair to say it is administered badly. It is a lie about the umpires. The umpire stretched it almost to its limit. He decided in her favour and gave her benefit. Now she writes me:I have been asked to go hack again and my chum who has been three years out, a year longer than me, has been turned down by the umpire and the court of referees.Three years raises the presumption that she is now a permanent seasonal worker. She asks me:What shall I do? Most of the girls who worked with me at the print works have done no work since. Almost every one of them is drawing benefit. I thought it preferable to work 28 weeks in the year than to be idle for 52. Not so very long ago the excuse given for disallowing claims was not genuinely seeking work, and now, because of seeking and taking the first job I can get, I am to be penalised.I have seen this woman. When she was unemployed and had the stamps, she got 3s. public assistance instead of 13s. 6d. How is she to live? It was done by a woman who had £2,000 a year. It was cruel to rob her. You can say what you 812 like about me, I am angry. [Interruption.] It may be that I have got twisted about. I have seen the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) angrier for less.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
I have had several cases like the one that the hon. Member has mentioned before the court of referees in Govan. I had seven cases in one day.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That only proves that the hon. Member is a finer advocate before the court of referees than I am, but I should like to see his seven cases.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
If the hon. Member cares to come down to Govan on Friday night, I will give him the cases.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It does not alter the argument. If someone can get an able advocate at one place, it only makes my indictment stronger. If a person can get it at Govan, why should not they get it at Dundee or anywhere else? [Interruption.] That leaves me cold.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I did not accept a trade union subsidy and sit up all night to vote for them being robbed like you did. I am not the only one. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), when congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was cheered louder by the Tories than ever I got cheered. I have had no trip to Canada yet. All I get is a free railway pass from Glasgow to London. If it costs more than that, my trips stop.
The Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to me said, "You would not give benefit to herring girls." May I submit to him two considerations which are unanswerable. He says that the herring workers and others work only for the season and then become a drag upon the fund. If the Parliamentary Secretary argues on that basis, I would remind him that the question does not only apply to the herring or fishing industry, but to any industry. Many persons are contributing to the fund far less than they are receiving out of it, but that is not their fault. If one takes the case of the fisher girls, on the average, over the last 10 years, 813 taking the industry as a whole, they have contributed more than certain other industries. This is only an argument as to why the miners should get more. Anyone who knows the mining industry will realise that because of the widespread unemployment in the mines, miners have drawn far more out of the fund than it can stand. That is not a reason why they should be refused, but a reason why they should get more. When industrial benefit is refused to the fisher girls, how are they to live and maintain themselves or be maintained? "Oh," says the Minister, "We are running this thing on an actuarial Basis." Actuarially seasonal workers have a stronger ease than most of the other workers. If the miners were dealt with on an actuarial basis, they would have received nothing years and years ago. Consequently, the financial argument against these people collapses.
Whatever point of view may be argued, the need for a review of the provisions, particularly with regard to seasonal workers, is long overdue. Women who take up seasonal work in hotels and other places have often to live under inferior conditions, accept inferior food and do the most menial tasks. I would say to the Minister and those responsible that the Act calls for repeal. I know that one argument may be that, after all, there are only about 40,000 persons who are being refused benefit. It may be that there are a small number, but every time I look at those smart young women who have no income coming in, I feel horror-stricken to think that women should be in such a position. It may be that they remain good—and they do— but it is not fair and right. I have seen a great improvement in my lifetime in the health and physique of women and children. But whether we like it or not, women will be dressed, and they have a right to be dressed, and if they are not given an income, they will still dress. The House of Commons ought to see to it that every decent unemployed woman who wishes to work and maintain herself is left with an income to keep body and soul together.
I frame my indictment against this Clause because I think that the Act continues the worst features of public life. I shall never cease, as long as I have a voice in this House, to urge the repeal of any Clause which has this effect. The 814 Minister may try to meet my argument about seasonal workers by saying that the umpires have decided something or other in their favour, but the fact is that 44,000 have been refused benefit. They are not married women, and almost ail of them are without income. The House of Commons ought to face up to the position. The Act of 1930 should not be continued, because it has now ceased to have the advantages it had when it was first put into operation. The amounts have been reduced, conditions have been made worse and periods of benefit curtailed. The Act of 1930 is merely a carcase without any of the real fibre in it. The present Clause should be rejected, as it would then be a direct instruction to the Government to repeal the Anomalies Act and to remodel all the Insurance Acts. To-day there is hardly a man or woman in Britain who can follow anything in unemployment insurance legislation, so complicated and difficult have the Acts become. We ought to reject the whole business. It is no use making a human or a personal appeal to the Government, as they are almost beyond recall in these matters, but I hope that there will be sufficient humanity, honour and justice among the rank and file of the Members of the House to see to it that those people are properly, justly and sanely dealt with.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I intervene at this stage because I want to deal with the points which have been raised both by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) on the Anomalies Act. The last part of the speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals was an appeal to repeal the Anomalies Act altogether. I say at once that I cannot do that, and I am not going to do it. I am certainly not going to offer any opinion as to who is the better advocate before the Umpire—the hon. Member for Gorbals or the hon. Member for Govan. I should think that they are both pretty good. I was very glad to hear the tribute paid to the complete impartiality of the Umpire.
I will deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Govan on the regulations dealing with married women. I do not propose to repeat what I said the other day when I went into the case of 815 the Anomalies Act as to why it was passed. I want to deal with the regulations which were made under it. The report of the Advisory Committee to which I submitted draft regulations contains the following passages to which I am going to refer. In paragraph 18 the report referred to the recommendations of the Royal Commission:That a married woman should be called upon to show"—and this is in inverted commas—' that having regard to her industrial experience and to the industrial circumstances of the district she can reasonably expect to obtain insurable employment in the district in which she is residing.'It goes on:We would call special attention to the words 'having regard to …the industrial circumstances of the district.'In paragraph 20 they said:If on the other hand, the intention of the Royal Commission or of Parliament was not to disqualify for benefit married women whose inability to obtain insurable work is due to industrial depression, it might be in accordance with that intention to substitute for the words 'industrial circumstances of the district in which she resides'"—which were the words in my draft—the words industrial practice of the district in which she resides, in the occupation in which she has been accustomed to work.'The difference between those two alternatives is that, in the first case, you can take into account the industrial circumstances of the district, that is to say, you can take into account whether there is trade depression, whether trade is good or had, and so on. In the second case you take into account merely the industrial practice of the district in the occupation in which she has been accustomed to work. That means that you take into account the practice in the district, and whether women are in fact usually employed in the industry after they have married. The next paragraph in the report is one to which I want to call special attention. The committee said:In view of the close balance of argument, however, we have thought it right to leave the matter without a definite recommendation to the decision of the Minister. The actual decision in the first instance is perhaps less important than that the working of this regulation in particular, however phrased, should be closely watched with a view to revision if it appears after 816 experience either unduly lax or unduly harsh.What the advisory committee did, without making any definite recommendation at all, was to point out those two alternatives. The alternative I have chosen was the first one. I put in the regulation the words:Industrial circumstances of the district in which she residesbecause those were the words which were recommended in the first report of the Royal Commission. That is the regulation to which the hon. Gentleman takes exception. There can be no doubt about it at all. I would point out that the minority report of the Royal Commission, which was quoted by the hon. Member for Govan on more than one occasion, in paragraph 193, on page 469, says:The Advisory Committee did not recommend any change in the draft Regulations that were submitted to them. They made it clear in their Report that they recognised the ambiguity of the phrase 'industrial circumstances' and that there was some difference of opinion on the Committee as to how it should be interpreted, i.e., whether 'industrial practice' was intended or whether such circumstances as a depressed state of trade were included; but in view of the close balance of argument they 'thought it right to leave the matter without a definite recommendation to the decision of the Minister.'The Committee will observe there was no recommendation on this point. What the advisory committee did was to offer me an alternative between two choices, and I have already stated the choice that I have accepted and the reason for my doing so. It was stated in the report of the advisory committee that:the working of this regulation in particular, however phrased, should be closely watched with a view to revision if it appears after experience either unduly lax or unduly harsh.I have watched the working of this condition very carefully and have done my best to come to a conclusion which of the two alternatives is really fairer to the married women, and one which I could very properly accept, and the conclusion that I have come to is that I shall put before the advisory committee for their views an alternative regulation which, I hope, would meet the very point raised by the hon. Member for Govan and which would take into account theindustrial practice of the district in which she resides, in the occupation in which she has been accustomed to work.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the two codified decisions of the umpire? I think he would find that they would be some help to the advisory committee in expressing their views if he passed those two decisions on to them.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I am going to put a regulation before the advisory committee for their views, and I have drafted that after taking into account the decision of the umpire. I do not want the Committee to bind me to the precise form of words which I am about to read, because it has only been roughly drafted. The new regulation would read something like this:That having regard to all the circumstances of her case and particularly to her industrial experience and the industrial circumstances of the district in which she resides she can reasonably expect to obtain insurable employment in that district or could reasonably have expected to obtain it but for an increase in trade depression since she was last regularly employed.That is an attempt to meet the very point which the hon. Member for Govan has raised and in the light of the experience that I have got it would, I think, be fairer to the married women than the existing regulation.
One word on the point raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals. He said that in practice the abolition of the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition has been offset by the not-normally-seeking insurable work condition which, in practice he says has the same effect as the not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause. I have gone into this matter very carefully, and there is a decision of the umpire which makes it clear that in the umpire's view that is not a true construction to place upon the Act.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The right hon. Gentleman will meet my point if he will give me any explanation of the alarming increase under the not-normally-seeking work far outweighing the volume in the increase in unemployment.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The hon. Member went a little further than that. He seemed to suggest that the insurance officers were disregarding the intention of the Act, possibly in ignorance of the umpire's decision, which really makes it clear that there is a distinction between 818 the not normally and the not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause. I am taking steps to bring once again to the notice of the insurance officers what the umpire's decision is, so that they shall have no doubt about it. That will ensure that the umpire's decision which makes this point quite clear will be brought to the notice of every court of referees and of those concerned in every district. I think that when that is done, the view that there is no difference in practice between the not-genuinely-seeking-work and the not-normally-seeking-work provision will be found no longer to exist.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I desire to put two or three points, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be in a position to reply to them later. The committee has had an explanation given by the Minister of a new regulation dealing with married women which is to be issued under the Anomalies Act. I represent a constituency in Lancashire, and it has been brought to my notice that married women employed in the textile and bleaching industry, in particular are not in their opinion securing fair play and that is the opinion of their trade union too, under the regulation as it stands. Any Member of the Committee who has followed the discussion in the public Press with regard to the administration of the Anomalies Act, and especially the book written by Lord Hewart some time ago, will remember, that a great deal of legislation in this country—if I may call it by the name of legislation—is effected nowadays by the Departments. I would refer for illustration to the National Health Insurance Act. The administration of benefits under that Act is at present carried out very much more by regulations issued by the Minister of Health than by Acts of Parliament. Therefore, I want the Committee to disabuse its mind as to the actual effect of any Act of Parliament as such.
We are dealing under the Anomalies Act to-day not so much with the provisions of the Act itself as the regulations issued by the Minister under that Act. I should like to know at what date it is expected the new regulation will operate? I have reason to ask that question because the Minister himself a week ago made a 819 statement which was nearly contradicted by the Parliamentary Secretary last Friday. I will read the two statements to show that Ministers in this Government are not in complete harmony on everything. It may have been due to a slip, but it is worth while pointing out. The Minister himself said:In one or two respects I think that those regulations might be modified, and I am proposing—I have to submit the proposals to the Advisory Committee—to submit certain revised regulations dealing with two of the classes of persons, seasonal workers and married women. I shall get a report in due course from the Advisory Committee who will have considered the regulations which I am proposing to make."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1933; col. 183, Vol. 279.]When the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the same point last Friday he said:My right hon. Friend has promised that before introducing the new Bill he is going to call the Advisory Committee together, and this question of the married women will be one of those which will be submitted to them to see whether they can in the light of experience advise on any altered Regulation."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1933; col. 455, Vol. 279.]We have been told this afternoon that the new Bill will be brought before Parliament but not until October or November. Surely the House of Commons is entitled, in view of the promise made by the Minister last week and this afternoon, that this new regulation which will modify the administration of benefits to married women under the Anomalies Act shall come into operation as soon as possible.
I was in Parliament when the Anomalies Bill passed through all its stages, and I well remember the arguments put forth in favour of it. As secretary of an approved society I would say that under the National Health Insurance scheme there will be probably many more anomalies than under the unemployment scheme, but nobody seems to bother about those anomalies. There are anomalies in all walks of life, but the biggest anomaly of all that I have seen in my Parliamentary experience is the coming into existence of this Government. One argument in favour of the Anomalies Act was this, that it was proved right up to the hilt that some employers of labour were actually arranging their days of work per week with their employés in 820 order to exploit the unemployment insurance fund. That was done. Let me give another instance that came within my personal knowledge. In some large shops in London, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow, in Liverpool and Manchester in particular, they have for years been employing women on Friday evenings and Saturdays only, married women whose husbands are at work. Before the passage of the Anomalies Act those women were insured and entitled to unemployment insurance benefit as a result of their week-end employment. That was an anomaly without any doubt.
Let me give another case. It was said at the time, and it was also quoted in the Debate last Wednesday, that men were engaged packing newspapers at the week-end, working from 30 to 35 hours at a stretch and earning £3, £4 or £5, and they were also insured and entitled before the passing of the Anomalies Act to get unemployment benefit for the rest of the week. I say on my own behalf, as one who has taken some interest in social insurance in this country and abroad, that I can never conceive that insurance will ever cover cases such as I have mentioned now excluded under the Anomalies Act. I do not think that any Government of any political colour in any country will ever bring people of that kind under any unemployment insurance scheme. Having said that, however, let me put the other side of the case. The Anomalies Act was passed to provide the Minister with power to make regulations and in issuing those regulations he has brought within his net some persons who were never intended to be covered by the original Act. When you deal with married women employed at the weekend in large shops, you are dealing with an anomaly, but when you come to the thousands of women in Lancashire, engaged in the textile and bleaching industries in particular, you are dealing with an entirely different proposition. When a woman marries in Lancashire, it is the custom of the county, the custom of the textile trade and the custom of the district that she follows her occupation after she is married. The Ministry has apparently lumped all the married women into one category although they differ fundamentally as between one county and another. What is the use of putting into the same category for the purpose of this regulation, married 821 women fruit pickers in the Evesham Valley—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
The treatment is not similar.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The treatment meted out to married women in Lancashire under this regulation is very similar.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member is under a slight misapprehension. There is a regulation governing married women generally; he is talking about a special regulation dealing with people who only normally work two days per week, and that applies to single women as well as to married women.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Whatever may be the difference in treatment, the Lancashire textile trade unions have been complaining for some time past that married women are being treated in a different way from what was intended by the Anomalies Act. We are a little alarmed at the figures which the Parliamentary Secretary gave the other day as to the refusal and disallowance of claims for benefit under the Anomalies Act. In the case of seasonal workers the disallowed claims were 45,000; in the case of persons normally working part only of the week, 4,998; and in the case of married women, 210,286. No one can tell how many of the 210,286 married women are situated in one area, but I am assured that a considerable part of them live in Lancashire and ordinarily follow their occupation in the textile industry. Before we leave this subject of the administration of the Anomalies Act and the new Regulation which is to be issued, I want to ask when the new Regulation will become operative, and whether special consideration will be given to Lancashire—[Interruption]—in view of the fact that for at least half a century the custom has been for women after their marriage to follow their employment in the textile trades. The whole standard of life of the family is determined by the fact that they follow their employment after marriage.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The passing of the Anomalies Act has nothing to do with the 822 Regulations which are made under it. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh as much as they like. Let me give a concrete case. What would be the use of blaming the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who introduced the National Health Insurance scheme in 1911, because this Government have issued a Regulation depriving thousands of insured people of medical benefit at the end of this year? It would be just as silly. You cannot blame a Government for passing an Act of Parliament, and then throw the whole of the onus on that Government because a succeeding Government issues Regulations which are contrary to the spirit of the Act. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Members do not like it, but the fact remains that the Anomalies Act was never designed to treat certain married women, by Regulation, in the way that this Government is treating them under the present Regulations. If that statement is not correct, how is it that the Minister of Labour is now saying that the harsh Regulations which he himself put into operation must be altered and modified in favour of married women? I support the deletion of the Clause.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPORN
My sole object in rising in to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give me a little information with regard to one class of married women and the effect the proposed new regulation will have in regard to them. There is in some trades a class of married women who form a sort of pool of labour, and are only employed by the trade on the understanding that they are the first to be taken off and the last to be taken on. In times of normal trade they receive a certain amount of employment each year, but in times of trade depression they are unemployed for a considerable portion of the year. In times of depression these women have little or no chance of obtaining work, and I should like to know to what extent the proposed new regulation will apply to those women who are the first to be turned off and the last to be taken on.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 282 Noes, 43.825
|Division No. 234.]||AYES.||[6.38 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francls Dyke||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||McKeag, William|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McKle, John Hamilton|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds,W.)||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian|
|Albery, Irving James||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macqulsten, Frederick Alexander|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l, W.)||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolln||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fraser, Captain Ian||Mannlngham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrlan W. M.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Gledhill, Gilbert||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mills. Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Milne, Charles|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Goff, Sir Park||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Bernays, Robert||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Morelng, Adrian C.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Gower, Sir Robert||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Greene. William P. C.||Moss, Captain H. J,|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Mlddlesbro, W.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grimston, R. V.||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Nunn, William|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Pearson, William G.|
|Briant, Frank||Hales, Harold K.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Petherick, M.|
|Brown,Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Hanbury, Cecil||Peto, Sir Basll E. (Devon, B'nstaple)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Buchan, John||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Harbord, Arthur||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. C. T.||Hartland, George A.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Burnett, John George||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Hore-Belisha, Lesile||Rankin. Robert|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hornby, Frank||Rea, Waiter Russell|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Horsbrugh Florence||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Howard, Tom Forrest||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Clarke, Frank||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Cobb, Sir Cyrll||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Jamleson, Douglas||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Janner, Barnett||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Cooke, Douglas||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rutherford. Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Salmon, Sir Isldore|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Salt, Edward W.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Ker, J. Campbell||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Kimball, Lawrence||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Law, Sir Alfred||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Slater, John|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lees-Jones, John||Smiles. Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Denville. Alfred||Liddall, Walter S.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Dickle, John P.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Drewe, Cedrle||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Mabane, William||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Dunglass, Lord||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Eastwood, John Francls||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McCorquodale, M. S.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Train, John||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Stewart, J. H. (File, E.)||Turton, Robert Hugh||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Stones, James||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Strauss, Edward A.||Wallace, John (Dunferailne)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Ward, Lt.-Col- Sir A. L. (Hull)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Watlsend)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Templeton, William P.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Thompson, Luke||Wedderburn.Henry James Scrymgeour-||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wells, Sydney Richard||Mr. Womersley and Dr. Morris-|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cove, William G.||Kirkwood, David||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Dobble, William||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McGovern, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Mr.John and Mr.Graham.|