§ The contributions payable by and in respect of an insured contributor under the National Health Insurance Acts, 1924 to 1932, and the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Acts, 1925 to 1932, shall, during such time as he fulfils the third statutory condition for the receipt of benefit, be payable out of the Unemployment Fund in accordance with regulations to be made by the Minister after consultation with the Minister of Health.—[Mr. Lawson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 7.23 p.m.
I want to warn the hon. Member in regard to this new Clause. I am not sure about it, and it may be that I shall have to rule it out of order as being beyond the scope of the Bill. I do not want to do so until I have heard what the hon. Member has to say.
§ Mr. LAWSON
In 1982 an Act was passed which excluded great masses of the unemployed from certain benefits as the result of having been out of work for two years and nine months. At the present time, and in this Bill, the law is that persons are eligible for membership on the Unemployed Fund and for transitional benefit if they are contributors to national health insurance. The Act of 1932 excluded many persons from health and medical benefits, and, indeed, in many cases from pensions. The original estimate was 80,000; now it affects 125,000. The tragedy of it is that the great bulk of these people are concentrated in certain areas, and the new Clause which I am moving provides that these people shall be kept in benefit for national health purposes out of the Insurance Fund; they shall continue to have their medical benefit and sick benefit and pensions as a result of being kept in benefit out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Ever since the Act of 1932 great masses of people have been penalised and it would be a good thing if they could be put into benefit again. They will benefit under Part II of the Bill and be treated by the Public Assistance Board, but while they are getting assistance in this way they will be penalised in another way simply because they are unemployed. They get the benefit of State funds, but they are excluded from the benefits of national health insurance.
The hon. Member has satisfied me now that this can only be done by an amendment of the National Health Insurance Acts and not by an amendment of the Unemployment Bill.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I do not think that an amendment of the National Health Insurance Act is necessary. The new Clause proposes that persons shall be kept in benefit, so far as national health insurance is concerned, out of the Unemployment Fund, and it would not need any amendment of the National Health Insurance Acts at all. It is immaterial to an approved society so long as these people are getting benefit, and we say that this should come out of the Unemployment Fund. Originally when these persons were unemployed and had run out of benefit with their societies there was a system of franking, which went on for some years. The 1932 Act robbed them of the benefit of franking. It was 1464 immaterial what happened so far as approved societies were concerned.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
May I point out that franking was done by the Ministry of Labour acting as the agent for the Ministry of Health, and no cost fell on the Ministry of Labour Vote. We merely franked the cards for the Ministry of Health. This matter was considered in 1924 when the Unemployment Insurance Bill was before the House and it was then decided, when a similar proposal was discussed, that it was a matter for the Ministry of Health and not for the Ministry of Labour as the cost did not fall on the Ministry of Labour Vote.
§ 7.28 p.m.
That is what is in my mind. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is proposing to throw an expense on the Unemployment Fund which should be borne by the National Health Insurance Fund, and he has satisfied me that it is not merely a matter of machinery but a definite placing of this burden on the Unemployment Fund. In that way it is outside the scope of the Bill.
§ Sir L. THOMPSON
And is it not wrong for anyone to expect a contribution in regard to this out of the Unemployment Fund—
§ Mr. LAWSON
I contend that the point with regard to franking does not hold as the approved societies have accepted franking for years as keeping members within benefit. It was accepted for years by the approved societies, but the time came when they said they could not continue to carry the responsibility. The other point is more material. It is that the Clause puts an extra charge on the Unemployment Fund. But I do not see in what way it is a violation of the Money Resolution.
I believe I used the word "burden" instead of "charge." What I tried to explain was that the mere fact that the hon. Member was trying by this Clause to place a burden on the Unemployment Fund, and that burden feeing in respect of National Health Insurance, it was a matter which 1465 should be dealt with in a National Health Insurance Bill and not in an Unemployment Insurance Bill. That was my point. The Clause is outside the scope of Unemployment Insurance.