HC Deb 20 February 1934 vol 286 cc261-314

The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper:

In page 32, line 25, after "allowance," to insert sufficient to provide the normal necessaries of life in this country."—[Mr. Mabane.]

7.55 p.m.


On a point of Order. May I ask why the Amendment standing in my name and the names of several of my hon. Friends has not been called?


The hon. Gentleman's Amendment has one of two effects. Either it does not alter the meaning of the Clause, in which case it is unnecessary, or it does, in which case it imposes a charge which is not within the scope of the Financial Resolution.

7.56 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 32, line 25, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall."

The Parliamentary Secretary said the other day that it was a rule of government never to leave out "may" and insert "shall," but on this occasion we think there is a point of very great substance to which that general rule should not apply. Here we have the setting up a new body which is taking over part of the functions of the Poor Law, and that new body will definitely take over the same responsibility as is laid upon the Poor Law authority in this country at the present time. Under the Poor Law, if an individual suffers or dies because of any negligence on the part of any officer, that officer is indictable. We would like to know who is indictable under the board as a result of the duties which have been taken over from the Poor Law, whether it is an officer of the board, the secretary of the board, or the Minister of Labour who would be held responsible.

In earlier stages of this discussion we have drawn attention to the difficulties of demarcation of function between the different parts of this tripartite scheme. Hitherto, we have been drawing attention to the clashes of authority, policy and function between the Minister of Labour in administering the unemployment system and the functions of the two boards. Here we are drawing attention to a blurring of responsibility between the Unemployment Assistance Board and the public assistance authority. At first sight it would seem that by this Clause the ancient rights of a citizen of this country to obtain relief in the face of necessity and urgency are being quietly abrogated, and that the ultimate responsibility of the Poor Law is disappearing. Upon a superficial study of the Clause, that would appear to be the case, but in the Seventh Schedule it is set out: This paragraph shall not apply to the granting of relief in respect of the medical needs of any person or affect any powers or duties under section seventeen of the Poor Law Act, 1930 (which relates to relief in cases of sudden or urgent necessity). That might cover the case, but I have very great doubt as to whether it really does. Suppose a man applies to the board, it is decided that he comes under Part II of the Bill and he is awarded a scale of benefit which is insufficient, and, as a result of that continuing for some time, he dies. Who would be responsible? The Poor Law officer or the officer of the Unemployment Assistance Board? If so, they would be very unjustly treated in being held responsible in a case for which, under the terms of this Bill, they would have no responsibility whatever. They are not allowed, on the face of it, to give outdoor relief to any person to whom Part II of the Bill applies. There is definitely a great blurring of responsibility, and accidents may happen. It may very well be that some individual, having been judged to come under Part II of the Bill, might not be aware of the fact that he has any title or recourse to any other individual, and being in that state, he might run into emergency and, as a result, might die. Again, who would be responsible? Any individual might be taken ill and for some reason an emergency might arise, and there might be great necessity. He might go to the relieving officer, although he came under Part I of the Bill, and the relieving officer would say: "Are you under Part II of the Unemployment Act?" and the man would say, "Yes." In those circumstances, the relieving officer might very well wish to make inquiries and find out whether that was the case. The local office of the Unemployment Assistance Board might be closed, on account of its being a Saturday afternoon or for some other reason, and on the face of it he would not be entitled to assistance. While these inquiries were being made and the facts were being substantiated, anything might happen.

We have moved this Amendment in order to make it clear that a responsibility shall lie on the authority, and that there shall be no abrogation of the rights which have hitherto prevailed under the Poor Law; and, further, in order to obtain an explanation as to what would happen in this period of uncertainty which will exist. As our earlier discussions have disclosed, there are bound to be uncertainties in cases which are on the borderline between the three parties who will now be concerned in giving help to the unemployed. We want to make it quite clear that there shall be a responsibility, and that, where there is uncertainty, that uncertainty shall be cleared up.

8.1 p.m.


On the point which the hon. Member has raised, the position is, I think, clear; and I think it is also clear that the sort of cases which he has put would not in any way be met by the Amendment. As he has pointed out, the statutory duties of the relieving officer in all cases of emergency are unaffected by the Bill. As regards the case of insufficient allowance by the board, it is the duty of the board to give a sufficient allowance, and, if they do not give a sufficient allowance, it would be undesirable that they should rely, in the ordinary course, on some other officer going round to see whether a sufficient allowance was or was not being given. But in the case of an insufficient allowance, or in any other emergency, the relieving officer's duties will remain unaffected. The mere insertion of the word "shall" instead of "may" would certainly have no effect at all on the amount of the allowance, which, under the Bill, is to be determined by the officers of the board. All cases of emergency will remain to be dealt with as at present under the statutory duty of the relieving officer, and, of course, the board will repay any sum given in such circumstances by the relieving officer.

8.2 p.m.


If the relieving officer is visited by a person who happens to be under the Unemployment Assistance Board, and if the relieving officer or his public assistance committee is of the opinion that the person is not getting sufficient, will they be allowed to supplement the amount that the person gets from the board?

8.3 p.m.


Not, as I understand, in cash. I think that that is clear under the Schedule. In such a case as the hon. Member puts, I should have thought that representations would be made. Parliament is putting on this board and its officers the duty of giving a sufficient allowance to meet the need, and I should have thought that, if the relieving officer formed the opinion that the allowance was insufficient, he might make representations in the proper quarter; but there would be no legal right to give relief unless in cases of emergency. Surely it is right that the board should feel that it has the responsibility of giving a sufficient allowance.

8.4 p.m.


This is not, perhaps, a big point in comparison with some of the Amendments that are on the Paper, but it is rather important. In practice what happens is this: The Commissioners in Durham have told people that their allowance is such-and-such an amount. Then those people have come up against circumstances in which the allowance has not proved to be sufficient. The relieving officer has given them half-a-crown, or it might be five shillings, extra, and the commissioners have regularly said, "You can either reduce them by half-a-crown or five shillings, or we will reduce them by half-a-crown or five shillings. That has been the practice, and I should like to ask who will be responsible in such a case. I think it is as well that this should be made clear, because I am of the opinion that ultimately the board will impinge upon the duties of the public assistance committees in such a way as to make one of the two unworkable. That is my view, in the light of the experience that we have had. It would be well that we should be clear as to whether, in cases such as the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) mentioned, people can have their income supplemented by the relieving authority without any difficulty, or whether the Unemployment Assistance Board is likely to lower their income.

8.6 p.m.


The point raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is one of great practical importance. I do not, however, wish to pursue it, but rather to be certain about what I would call the constitutional issue. I understand from the Solicitor-General that it is the duty of the board to give a sufficient allowance, and the assumption is that they will do so, but in the event of their failing to give a sufficient allowance, and in the event of an emergency arising there from and the clients of the board dying, the Solicitor-General tells me that the public assistance relieving officer will be responsible. The responsibility, however, ought to be on the officer of the board through whose negligence that situation has arisen. I think that this point is one of substance, and I hope that the Minister will give his mind to it and will try to relieve the anxiety which exists in regard to it.

8.8 p.m.


It seems to me that as there may be two officers acting in the case of one man, there may easily be a difference of opinion between them. The first that will act will be the officer of the Unemployment Assistance Board, but, if the grant which they make, and which on his advice they consider to be adequate, is proved to be inadequate to the satisfaction of another officer—the local Poor Law officer—he himself will have a responsibility, and he will be indictable if he fails to carry out his respon- sibility. If, in order to carry out what he conceives to be his duty, and to save himself from being indicted under the Poor Law, he gives an additional amount, the Minister will have to decide which of the two is right. This is a case which in fact has arisen in Durham, and no doubt in other places as well—not, it is true, between the same officers, but in exactly similar circumstances to those which no doubt will arise in many instances in the future. We ought to know, before we pass from this Bill, what is going to happen in the event of that situation arising.

8.10 p.m.


I should like to know why the word "may" is being preferred to the word "shall" in this particular sentence. After all, Clause 37 lays down pretty stringent conditions which have to be satisfied. The person has to be a person to whom this Part of the Act applies; then there are paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), paragraph (c) being the needs test itself; the applicant has to satisfy the board that he is in need of an allowance. And, when all these conditions have been satisfied, it still only remains that he "may" be granted an allowance. I do not see why the word "may" is preferred, unless it be owing to a natural reluctance on the part of the Government to commit themselves at all to anything. When, however, we come to Sub-sections (2) and (3), which provide for cutting down the amount of any allowance, we find it laid down that the matter "shall" be determined by reference to need, and so on. Therefore, whenever it is ncessary to restrict what is being done, the language is perfectly definite, and the old prejudice against using the word "shall" simply goes by the board. It is only when the unfortunate person's rights are being stated that the Front Bench cannot go further than a tepid "may." I would ask them whether they can not be a little more definite, even if only for the psychological effect. The rights under this Bill may not be as great as many of us would wish, but, such as they are, let them be as definite as they can be made. Therefore, I would ask the Government to accept this alteration.

8.14 p.m.


In my constituency, as I mentioned on the Second Reading, I had 25 cases in one town where benefit was refused, and where afterwards it was found that 24 out of the 25 people concerned were perfectly entitled to benefit. As a result of this refusal of benefit, all those people had to go on to the Poor Law for three weeks. If the word "may" is allowed to remain as it is here, it seems quite likely that these unfortunate people may be treated as they were before, and refused benefit and be put on to the Poor Law when they are perfectly entitled to benefit, whereas, if the word "shall" is used they would in fact receive the benefit, and if afterwards it was found that they were not entitled to it, they could then revert to the Poor Law.

8.15 p.m.


I am not sure in the circumstances that I would not prefer the word "may" to remain rather than insert "shall." I can imagine circumstances in which a man may make an application for an allowance to the unemployment assistance officer and in which, provided an allowance of any amount is given him, the obligation on the officer will be discharged and, although it may be miserably inadequate, it will not be possible for the applicant to go to the relieving officer and get it supplemented. The officer of the board may be in some doubt as to whether or not any payment should be made, and on the first application he may give as small an amount as possible. If the word "shall" was there, he would have to give an allowance, and it might be inadequate, and the man could not go to the relieving officer. If, on the other hand, the obligation was not imposed on the officer to give an allowance, the applicant could receive a sufficient amount from the relieving officer.

If I were a person coming under Part II and I asked the unemployment assistance officer for an allowance, and he said he was in some doubt as to whether I was a person to whom the Act applied, and in any case he could not give me anything until he had made up his mind about it, I should be entitled to go to the relieving officer and claim public assistance. Then the public assistance committee would itself be interested in securing that I was transferred as a burden to the Act, whereas if the unemployment assistance authority were under a specific obligation to relieve me I should have inadequate relief in the meantime and, because I received that relief, unless I could show that I was in additional medical need, I should not be able to get any additional assistance from the public assistance authority. So, although I admit that the line of demarcation is drawn between the board and the public assistance authority in so blurred a way that I can see extraordinary complications arising, nevertheless I think I should prefer to allow the law to impose an obligation upon the public assistance committee, in the first instance to relieve any distressed citizen rather than have a form of words which may modify the obligation of the public assistance authority and transfer the same obligation with the same force to a new authority.

8.19 p.m.


I am rather surprised at the hon. Member's line of argument, I thought it was held on the part of the promoters of the Bill that its real purpose is to keep unemployed people between 16 and 65 away from the Poor Law. It seems to me that the duty of relieving destitution is already placed by Statute upon the public assistance officer. The reason why we do not want unemployed people to fall on public assistance is twofold, first, that no one feels it to be desirable that people who are unemployed through no fault of their own should have their needs relieved by the Poor Law, and secondly, that the tendency of everyone who is entrusted with the administration of these funds is, wherever possible, to push the responsibility on to the local authority, which has the effect of putting it on to the ratepayers rather than the Taxation Fund.


The public assistance authority itself would be interested in securing the transfer of the person to the Unemployment Assistance Board, and machinery is set up in the Bill to enable them to make their appeal so that there will be no indefinite charge on the local rates of a person who properly ought to be chargeable to the Unemployment Assistance Board.


The Clause states the alternative open to the board. It may become a permanent charge upon the local rates. It seems to me that the only way out is to make it mandatory upon the board to make an allowance. Unless we do that I can see all sorts of overlapping. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has pointed out what is happening in Durham, where cases are being dealt with inside the same family, where the public assistance committee give a supplemental allowance, and the Commissioners come along and say, "If you are going to continue that allowance on this ground, we are going to reduce the transitional payment,' and when one makes any representation, the public assistance committees feel that they are being interfered by people who have no right to interfere with them. The simplicity of the position would be very much greater if we could make it mandatory upon the board. There seems to be no objection to the word "shall" in other parts of the Bill, and I hope the Minister will take another look at the Clause and see if he cannot accept the Amendment.

8.23 p.m.


May I try to relieve the apprehensions of the hon. Members for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) and East Birkenhead (Mr. White)? The procedure under the Bill is that a man will apply to the officer of the board. There is no destitution test in the Bill. It is precisely because we want to get away from the Poor Law that we have specifically not put such a test in the Bill. Therefore, a man's needs are not going to be assessed on that basis. We wish to differentiate the whole scheme from the Poor Law as far as we can. The officer will make a determination of what he believes to be the man's needs in accordance with regulations approved by the House. In the Schedule the local authority is specifically prohibited from supplementing that allowance in cash or in kind, as an ordinary, normal, weekly supplementation. They will not be allowed to say, "We think 30s. a week insufficient for this man. We think he ought to get 32s. 6d., and we will, therefore, give him 2s. 6d. a week." But the Bill does not remove from the relieving officer the statutory duty to relieve under Section 17 of the Poor Law Act, 1930, in cases of sudden and urgent necessity. If a man had been given 30s. on Thursday, and on the following Wednesday he came round and said, "There is no food in the house at all," the relieving officer would be compelled to give him an order to relieve a sudden and urgent necessity, and in that case, under the Schedule, the Assistance Board would have to repay to the local authority the cost of giving that supplementation. The officers of the local authority will be bound to relieve sudden or urgent necessity, and subject to the Seventh Schedule they will be able to reclaim it from the board. But they will not be able to say, "We consider that the general scales of the board for this particular area are not sufficient, and we will raise them all by giving an extra 2s. 6d. all round." I hope that with that explanation the hon. Member for Birkenhead, East will see that the apprehensions which he feels will not be realised in practice.

Amendment negatived.

The following Amendments stood upon the Order Paper:

  1. (1) In page 32, line 33, leave out "earn sufficient for his needs," and insert "maintain himself and his dependants at such a reasonable standard as he would be able to do were he in normal employment."
  2. (2) In line 34, leave out from "needs" to the end of the Sub-section.—[Mr. Hicks.]


Of the two Amendments standing next on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), the second is definitely out of order as going beyond the terms of the Financial Resolution. I think, without definitely committing myself, that the first Amendment is in order if allowed to stand alone, but in those circumstances I am not sure whether the hon. Member would care to, move it.

8.26 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 32, line 33, to leave out "earn sufficient for his needs," and insert: maintain himself and his dependants at such a reasonable standard as he would be able to do were he in normal employment. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that the workers should suffer no impairment in their general standard through unemployment or part-time employment. It is to enable the unemployed and their dependants to live as they normally would have lived providing they were in ordinary employment. It raises, in the light of present knowledge, an exceedingly important issue. The point is whether or not we are to have in the background of our social life a subnormal section of the community, and whether they are to be permanently unable to maintain themselves at the standard at which they would be able to maintain themselves were they employed. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this country whose hunger will not be satisfied. This raises a tremendously important issue because once the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament no substantial action will be taken for a long time to come to change the general conditions laid down in the Bill.


I want to make it clear that the Amendment is not out of order and I will therefore allow the hon. Member to move it, but from his argument I am afraid that he is trying to persuade the Committee to do something which would go beyond the Financial Resolution. May I call his attention to the wording of the particular Clause which his Amendment covers? The Amendment relates to Sub-section (1, b), which contains one of the conditions or qualifications on which an allowance may be made. The words are in Sub-section (1, b) to the effect that the applicant either has no work, or has only such part-time or other work as not to enable him to earn a certain amount. It is that which the hon. Member wants to alter, and the Amendment does not alter the allowance which is paid to him at all. That is the reason why I did not quite understand how the first Amendment of the hon. Member could have any force or effect whatever without the second one, which was definitely out of order.


I certainly bow to your Ruling, Sir Dennis. The point which I am particularly desirous of conveying in my Amendment to the proposal in the Bill is that the man on part-time employment or who is unemployed should have a standard of living equal to that which would ordinarily obtain provided he was in ordinary employment.


I am afraid that the Amendment of the hon. Member would not have that effect if taken by itself. The Amendment does not affect in any way the question of the amount of the allowance to be obtained. It only has the effect, if it has any effect at all, of slightly altering the class of people who may apply for allowances.


Could it not be accepted as a definition of the term "sufficient for his need"? It is an attempt to define what his needs are and to provide that they should be kept in such a condition. Could you accept it in that way?


The hon. Member does not see my point. Whatever alteration might be made in these words, it would not effect what he wants. I saw that the point desired to be achieved by the two Amendments of the hon. Member came under his Amendment to leave out paragraph (c), and therefore I am afraid that the whole point which the hon. Member wants to raise by this Amendment is beyond the terms of the Financial Resolution.


Could not the hon. Gentleman, in accepting your Ruling, raise the narrow point of the man earning less than when he was in normal employment? If the man had no work or only such part-time or intermittent work as not to allow him to earn sufficient for his needs, could not the point be raised within the narrow scope of your Ruling? I presume that that is the affect of your Ruling?


That is quite right. It is only on that point that I was enabled to think that the Amendment of the hon. Member was in order. What the Amendment really means is in order, but the speech of the hon. Member in favour of it was an argument in favour of something it does not mean and which is out or order. May I give an illustration in this way. If he were to move an Amendment to make paragraph (b) run thus: That he has no work or only such part-time work as not to enable him to earn £1,000 a year"— it would be in order, but it would not alter in the very slightest degree the amount of the allowance, because the allowance is covered by the words, providing the applicant has to prove also that he is in need of an allowance


Has this Committee any power without going outside the Financial Resolution? The Financial Resolution alludes to the relieving of need. The Committee now feel that we ought to define need. The point of the Amendment is, that it is an attempt to define what is need. This is a test of need and, therefore, I submit that it comes within the financial scope of the Resolution. The Financial Resolution merely governs need but does not define what need is, leaving it to the board to define. The Amendment attempts to say that the board shall define what need is, but only within the limits of the Amendment that is attempted to be moved.


The hon. Member is right, and if he had put down an Amendment in some form or other defining the word "need," I have no doubt that it would have been in order, but we are dealing with one particular Amendment, which certainly does not define "need."


Seeing that the Committee is desirous of raising this point, would you allow us, in the circumstances, to draft a manuscript Amendment?


I may answer that question at once. I always consider manuscript Amendments when they are handed in, but such Amendments do sometimes put the Committee in some difficulty.


We accept your Ruling. This Amendment deals with persons who are to be considered for an allowance. What we wish to do is to add to the people who work part time or intermittently the persons who are unable to maintain themselves in a certain standard of life. The Amendment simply enlarges the type of person who is to be considered for an allowance.


The hon. Member is not saying anything which is contrary to my Ruling. I repeat that the Amendment as it stands by itself is in order, but, if the hon. Member who moves it imagines that it is going to do something which it does not and makes a speech arguing in favour of greater allowances than are covered by the Resolution, then his speech is out of order. That is my point.


The discussion has helped to clear up certain points in regard to the validity of the Amendment. It is impossible for me under the interpretation that has been given to elaborate the argument which I wanted to make for the purpose of establishing those people who are in part-time employment or who are unemployed in a standard of living equal to that which they would have when in employment. Therefore, I think it would be proper to reconsider the matter and to submit to you, perhaps at a later date, a manuscript Amendment so that we can see whether we are able to cover the point.


I take it the hon. Member does not wish to move the Amendment.


That is so.


Will you elaborate your Ruling by pointing out the portion of the Financial Resolution which puts the next Amendment out of order?


No, I do not think I can be asked to do that. I cannot be asked to give a lecture on the Financial Resolution. I can only deal with points as they arise.

8.42 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 32, line 39, after "household," to insert: ("provided that such needs shall not be assessed at less than three shillings per week in respect of each dependent child.") It may appear on the face of it to be a little contradictory to suggest that 3s. should be paid under Part II when the proposal for 3s. under Part I was defeated. May I say, in my humble judgment, that the cases are not parallel. I listened to the whole Debate on Part I with regard to allowances for children and eventually, because of the argument used about upsetting the finance of the Bill, I refrained from voting, although I was strongly in favour of 3s. and I thought that a case had been made out for it. It was, however, a question of balancing accounts and that caused me to hesitate at that juncture. Under Part I where a person is insured he may have other reserves and assets and his credit is good, when, unfortunately, he comes out of work, but under Part II the householder has been stripped of his assets, otherwise he gets less benefit under Part II, because his means are taken into consideration. Very often his credit has been stopped at the shop, or at the Co-operative store, wherever he does any business, because people realise that he has been out of work so long. Therefore his needs are greater. Whatever reserves he may have had have become more or less exhausted. His benefit from the friendly society and so on has been stopped and the whole position is far worse under Part II than under Part I. Many authorities are already given the 3s. in respect of allowances for children and even considerably more than 3s. The cost of giving 3s. would not be as much to the State as would be inferred from answers that have been given to questions.

Who to-day would say that 3½d. per day is enough to keep a dependent child? I refuse to attempt to defend a proposal of that description. I am not asking for anything outrageous in my Amendment. I am asking for 5d. a day to keep a dependent child. Surely I do not need to elaborate the arguments when I ask that the increase shall be from 3½d. to 5d. per day. The authorities that are already giving more than 3s. can be quoted, if necessary. I am sorry that the Minister of Labour is absent. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look at the humane aspect of the question. Those of us who have had experience of the Minister of Labour know how humane and kind-hearted he is, but the people outside would not judge so when the sum of 2s. is allowed for each dependent child. It is so easy to make out a case, but so difficult to answer it. The Government will be judged and this House will be judged on the basis that if we pass 2s. we think that that is sufficient to maintain a dependent child. I shall be told that 2s. has always been the amount, but we do not want to go on the principle "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be." Because it has been wrong in the past there is no reason why the wrong should be perpetuated. Every party in the State has been responsible for it, but now that we have reopened the question in this new Measure one party only will be responsible, and that is the Government of the day, in the eyes of the people of the country for this 2s.

We are anxious for the success of this Measure. It has been traduced up and down the country, in our opinion, most unjustly. It is a good Measure, it contains vast improvements in the law, and if it had been brought in by a Socialist Government it would have been acclaimed as a heaven-sent Measure. I do not want the Minister, shall I say, to spoil the ship for a halfpenny worth of paint. It may be said that it will be costly to increase the allowance. It will not cost so much as would appear on the face of it because a large number of local authorities are already allowing 3s., and more, and all we are asking now is that it should be made statutory. Those who have had experience on the bench as magistrates know that in cases of separation the allowance is always based on the basis of 2s. plus 1s. out of the father's contribution, and under the new system I am sure that the amount would be increased and the father would have to pay at least 1s. more than the statutory amount. Therefore, it would benefit a large number of people who at present are not getting what we consider a fair amount.

It may be said, also, that it is the duty of the father and mother to contribute something out of their allowances towards the children's allowance, but the children's allowance is a specified amount. If there were no fixed amount for the father and mother and the child it might be argued that it is a collective amount, but this is a specific amount of 2s. and I cannot see anyone possibly defending such a proposal. I want the Government to get any credit there is to be had out of this, and they can only have it by doing this voluntarily. I hope they will realise that the country is in favour of this proposal and will be far more in favour of the Measure than they are if the statutory amount of the allowance for children is fixed at 3s. I have been amazed at the amount of support I have received in the House since this proposal was put on the Order Paper. Loyal supporters of the Government have asked me if they could add their names to it, and if the Orders of the House had allowed it I am certain that we could have filled the Order Paper with names.


You will not fill the Lobby.


I was coming to that. Whether hon. Members will follow me into the Lobby is in the lap of the gods, or is it in the hands of the Whips, or somebody else? But I do desire the Minister to accept the proposal and thus prevent loyal supporters of the Government like myself having to separate ourselves from the Government on a matter of this sort. We regard it as vital, and our loyalty to the children of this land demands that we should insist on the Amendment.

8.50 p.m.


After the moving appeal made to the Parliamentary Secretary by the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) it needs very few words from me to emphasise the necessity for the Government to accept the Amendment. We are now recovering from the trade depression of 1932. There are signs and indications that the trade of the country will continue to improve, and having in mind the fact that the unemployed have had their benefit reduced the Government ought to increase the children's allowance from 2s. to 3s. per week.


I think the Committee ought to understand the Amendment they are discussing. There is no question whatever of an allowance to children here, it is a question of the assessment of need, and the point of the Amendment is to give a certain standard as to need. It is not an allowance at all.


I am obliged to you, Mr. Chairman, for calling me to order. You mentioned the word "need," and that is the gist of my argument. In a later Sub-section of Clause 37 it states that the expression "need" does not include medical needs. It is for that very reason that I object to the allowance being only 2s. per week.


And I object to the hon. Member talking about an allowance. He must really read the Clause and the Amendment.


I will try and keep within the limits of your ruling. The hon. Member for Bolton said that he wanted the amount increased from 3½d. to 5d. per day; that is my desire. I do not think that any hon. Member can honestly say that 5d. per day is too much in the case of a child.


May I point out that there is nothing whatever about 3½d. per day in the Bill, or about 5d. per day.


I think the Parliamentary Secretary might allow you, Mr. Chairman, to rule as to what is right and what is wrong, and not draw your attention to it.


The Parliamentary Secretary has as much right to call my attention to a question of order as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood).


In assessing the needs of children I maintain that the Government have not made sufficient allowance for the needs of children in the early years of life. We want this country to become an A1 nation. If we were faced with some calamity the amount of money necessary would be easily forthcoming, and I hope the Government will take that view in this respect and accept the Amendment.

8.54 p.m.


In rising to support the Amendment I must point out some of its dangers. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the Amendment deals with the question of the percentage of need. In dividing household income into separate individuals as a past member of a board of guardians, I see great danger. I can quite see that in assessing means and saying that we shall take each child in accordance with the Act of Parliament at 3s., and then lessening the amount of the other members of the family, the household income would not be as good as the Mover of the Amendment would like it to be. There is the danger. At the same time it is necessary that Parliament should safeguard the welfare of the children. As to whether this is the best way of doing it, I have doubt. I wish that the Chairman had been able to accept an Amendment which he has ruled out of order.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that there is a difference between this class of unemployed and those under the old public assistance. He said that in that case a destitution test would be applied, but that in this case it would not be applied. I take it he means that they would be treated more generously in this class than are those who are already on public assistance. The Parliamentary Secretary will not argue that 3s. per week is too high a figure at which to assess the need of a child. We have heard many arguments as to whether the British Medical Association were correct in their figures. No one has ever suggested that 3s. was too much. It is generally agreed that 3s. is not more than the need of a child. A very important point was made by the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam). These people are in a different category. The parent has already been unemployed for at least six months, and it follows that any resources he may have had at the beginning of the six months, have been drawn on heavily. The household, therefore, would be poorer than at the beginning of the six months. Our case for the Amendment is that it is very modest. We see its dangers, but we are prepared to risk them.

8.58 p.m.


I think I can safely say that I agree with a great deal of what has fallen from the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Macdonald). He has talked from his practical experience as a member of a public assistance committee. He quoted something which I had said about destitution. If I remember rightly, what I said on the Second Reading was that the distinction we were making now was that whereas under the old Poor Law a man had to become destitute before he could be given assistance, under this Bill it was possible to give him assistance that would prevent him becoming destitute. That is the intention of the Government. The hon. Members for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) and North Salford (Mr. J. P. Morris) talked about 2s. and 3s. They no doubt had in mind the rates of benefit under Part I. No one to my knowledge has ever suggested in the past history of unemployment insurance that benefit was meant to be maintenance. Therefore 2s. has never been related to maintenance or to the amount required to maintain a child. Hon. Members opposite know that just as well as I do, because most of them trooped into the Lobby behind the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in the last Parliament against an Amendment moved by Miss Jenny Lee to raise the amount to 5s. Let us get that out of our mind.

What we are dealing with now is the question of need, the figure at which need can be assessed. The hon. Member for Ince was quite right when he said that the duty of this board is to consider the need of the household as a whole, as a unit. You will not necessarily achieve what hon. Members who moved the Amendment have in view by laying down certain arbitrary figures as to certain of the components of that unit, while leaving variable the remainder of the figures dealing with the remaining members of that unit. Let me assume for the purpose of argument that the need of a man and his wife is assessed at 20s., and that you come along and say that the need of the child is assessed at 3s. If someone believes that the need of a man, wife and two children should be only 24s. and not 26s., you do not get 26s. by saying that the need of the two children is 3s. each, because it is open for someone then to come along and say, "Instead of giving 20s. as the need of the man and wife, in this particular case I shall assess their need at 18s." That would defeat the whole object.

I do hope that hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment will believe me when I say that that is not merely a debating point, but that it goes to the very root of the matter. They will not achieve what apparently they have in view by the Amendment. On the contrary, the Amendment will go very far indeed to defeat it, by laying down the opinion of this House by implication that 3s. is the appropriate need of a child. I am not going to stand here and say that 2s. or 3s. or 4s. is the appropriate need of a child, because I am dealing in this Bill, and the board will be dealing, with the need of a family as a whole.


You mean a household.


A household. If a household contains children of different ages, I assume, without giving any guarantee, that when the board comes to draw up its regulations, which will be submitted to this House, it will make provision for assessing the need of a child of 15 at a different rate from that of the child of two years. Therefore, hon. Members would go a long way towards defeating the object we all have in view, by laying it down that 3s. is in any way an appropriate figure for children as a whole.


That is an assumption. What right have you to say that?


There is at least the safeguard for hon. Members that the regulations under which the board will work cannot come into operation until this House has passed an affirmative resolution. Therefore although we have every sympathy, as every one has, with the objects of the Amendment, I hope my hon. Friends will take it from me that this is not the way to achieve them, but that, having set up deliberately an expert board, and having charged it with the duty of going into these questions and producing for the approval of the Minister, and of this House, regulations covering the assessment of need of a household, including all the various contingencies of different types of children, the way to get the best results out of that is not first of all to say that in respect of one unit and one unit alone of a household, an arbitrary figure of 3s. is the appropriate one.


On a point of Order. The Parliamentary Secretary accuses me of saying that 3s. is an appropriate amount. I never used such words.


That is not a point of Order.


It is an explanation.

9.5 p.m.


I am afraid I do not agree with what has just been said by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I think that if we put these words into the Bill the board when they deal with these cases are more likely to give at least what they consider to be in accordance with the need of the child instead of leaving it, as I am afraid they might easily do, at the rate which is at present laid down.


I am not sure what the hon. and gallant Member is dealing with. There is no rate laid down here. The hon. and gallant Member seems to be referring to something which has been dealt with under Part I of the Bill and has nothing whatever to do with the Amendment now before us.


I was referring to the need as it is assessed at the moment by public assistance committees in the country. I do not mean that it is laid down in this Bill but that it is laid down, as a sort of general rule throughout the country at the present time. I feel that if we alter what is in the Bill and suggest that the need of the child shall be laid down as not less than 3s. we shall give the board some indication on which to act. I do not agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that to lay it down that the child's assessment should be not less than 3s. would necessarily mean that the other people in the household—not the family—would be assessed at less. I see no reason at all why that should be so. If we put in this Amendment it would indicate to the board that we consider that the assessment of children should not be less than 3s. I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that we should include these words.

9.8 p.m.


I was pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the 2s. children's allowance had never been regarded as adequate. That is an admission which most of us were pleased to hear. With regard to the Amendment, it should he pointed out that it does not instruct the board to stabilise the children's allowance at 3s. It is laying down a minimum. As one who has had considerable experience in Poor Law administration I would rather see the Amendment carried than leave the matter entirely to the board. In other cases, Parliament has laid down a minimum figure for children. Under the Workmen's Compensation Acts the minimum payable to a child is 3s. a week and the maximum is 6s. That figure of 3s. was inserted many years ago as a safeguard and in order to provide an irreducible minimum. In the case of the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 5s. is allowed for the first child, and 3s. for any others. While there is a good deal of sound sense in the argument that this might best be left to the board without any stipulation, yet I feel that there should be an instruction that not less than 3s. is to be the amount allowed for a child. The balance of advantage I think lies with the Amendment and I hope the Mover will have the courage to carry it to a Division. The Parliamentary Secretary to-night and on the Second Reading said the intention was to remove the able bodied poor from the Poor Law altogether. He has always led us to believe that the unemployed who would come under Part II were likely to be better treated under this Bill than they are being treated now. I hope he is right but I think time will prove him wrong. Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, I think the Committee ought to express itself on this Amendment and I for one will support it if it is carried to a Division.

9.11 p.m.


The Committee appears to be in some difficulty about this Amendment. It is true that technically and from the point of view of drafting, the Amendment leaves much to be desired. Indeed, in addition to the difficulties already pointed out the effect of the Amendment apparently would be to provide that the needs of all the dependents should be assessed at "not less than 3s. per child"—not the needs of the children alone but the needs of all the dependents. Therefore, if we approach this Amendment, as the Parliamentary Secretary did, as a business Amendment to a business scheme, I think we should find a great deal of difficulty.


It is not a business scheme.


The hon. Member will always, I am sure, take every possible opportunity to prevent anybody from agreeing with him on this. After all, however, that is not really the issue before the Committee at present. The issue before the Committee is a second edition of the issue, which was before the Committee at an earlier stage, namely: Have the Government faced the whole question of the amount necessary for the children's allowance? That is a point which those of us who opposed the Government at an earlier stage have to drive home. Even if this Amendment is, as I admit it is, one against which many objections can be urged, as an Amendment to this particular scheme, in this particular place, it is, nevertheless part of the contention which we have pressed upon the Government and to which we have received no satisfactory reply, a contention on which the Government appear at the present moment to have no settled policy. Therefore, in spite of all the objections that may he urged against doing so, I propose on this occasion to support my hon. Friend in the Lobby, though he failed to support me in the Lobby on a previous occasion.

9.15 p.m.


I wish to reinforce What my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has said. The Parliamentary Secretary made a very clever and quite unanswerable debating speech. That is what we expect from him when Amendments of this kind are moved because there is an obvious technical flaw which cannot be surmounted in this Amendment. But I suggest to him that the attitude of the Government on Part I of the Bill upon this question of dependent children is very largely responsible for the uneasiness in this Committee to-night upon this Clause, and I would press upon the Minister of Labour and upon the Parliamentary Secretary this fact: The Committee is profoundly uneasy about the children of the unemployed in this country at the present time, and with good reason, because there is ample evidence, of which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary must be well aware, that all over the country at the present time the children of the unemployed are under-nourished, to put it moderately.

It is false economy from any point of view to bring up under-nourished children, and in the long run it will not pay. Some people would go so far as to say, with my hon. Friend, that there are cases of something very like starvation. Be that as it may, I am certain that a vast majority of hon. Members take the view that 3½d. a day is insufficient on which to keep a child, and they are not quite satisfied in their own minds that that view is shared by the Government, and they think it should be shared by the Government. The Members of this Committee are not prepared to divest themselves of all responsibility in this matter, even although the Government are apparently prepared to do so. I can only say that I hope the Government will take note once again of the fact that the Committee is very uneasy about this business of dependent children's allowances, and if they do not see fit to modify their attitude on this Amendment, I hope they will observe what has been said with a view to reconsidering their position on the Report stage of the Bill.

9.17 p.m.


One would expect that after the expressions of opinion from all sides of the Committee, the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary would have risen to his feet. We want to give a lead to the Unemployment Assistance Board as to what we in this House think are the needs of the children. The Parliamentary Secretary said that when the assessment of a household was considered, all the lot would be taken into account, and if we put in 3s. for the child, they might cut down the other members of the household. That may be so, but if we give a direct expression of opinion as to what we think ought to be the figure for certain members of the family, it is just possible that the assessment of the needs of the other members of the family may be increased also. If I were the Parliamentary Secretary, I would not hide myself behind that point, and if it is the intention of this House to give some direction to these people, I would let the Amendment be carried and let them understand how we feel on this matter. You cannot very well stand in the way of Members on all sides expressing themselves on this question. On Part I the same expression of opinion was made, but we were not able then to persuade the Government, and we can see now what is happening as a result of Members of their own party not having had the opportunity of getting what they thought proper then. To-night we are getting the same expressions of opinion and of deep feeling, hon. Members knowing very well what is happening in all unemployed families.

There is not a Member of the House of Commons who will attempt to justify, either here or anywhere else, 3½d. a day as sufficient for any child. If you agree with that, give a lead to these people as to what they ought to do, and I feel sure that that expression of opinion will have some weight with them, but if the Government Whips try to prevail over their Members by saying that it may lead to the defeat of the Government if they vote against them on this Amendment, they are saying to these people that the House of Commons is not in favour of the 3s. I trust that every Member on the Government side who feels with us on this point will not desert us but will give a vote in the Lobby for the Amendment. The hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) said he could have had the Order Paper filled twice over with names in support of the Amendment. I wish he had got all those names down, and that when he went into the Lobby everyone of those hon. Members would have voted according to what they thought on this matter. I trust that they will not be deterred from carrying out their honest opinion if the Minister holds fast to not accepting the Amendment.

9.20 p.m.


My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) have both adverted to an Amendment which was moved on Part I of the Bill and to uneasiness caused by the refusal of the Government to accept that Amendment. I am bound to say that I can see no connection whatever between that Amendment on Part I and the Amendment now before the Committee, and I think it would be the height of misfortune if we were to consider that there was any connection between the two Amendments. I rather doubt whether the Committee has yet fully appreciated the distinction between Part II and Part I of the Bill. I admit, of course, that there has been some impression in the mind of the country that assessments of need under Part II may perhaps bear some relation to sums payable under Part I, but I think that is an entirely false impression. It is one of the strongest points in favour of the Bill that it does lay down an entirely novel principle in regard to the assessment and relief of need. It is an entirely new thing, on a different principle from the old Poor Law, and I do not think there is any necessary connection with any rules that may be made under Part I. I entirely sympathise with the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) in moving the Amendment, but I do not think he was right in speaking, as he constantly did, of a specific rate of 2s., implying, I thought, that if the Amendment were not accepted, there would be some specific rate of 2s. which would be regarded as the normal idea of need for the child in the interpretation of this Clause.


Does not the hon. and learned Member really think that a figure of 2s. for each dependent child in Part I will influence the board in this connection?


Not in the slightest. Why should it? I listened to the whole of the Debate on the Amendment to which my hon. Friend referred on Part I, and never once did I hear anybody who resisted that Amendment even suggest that the 2s. was adequate for the maintenance of a child. Two shillings a week is 3½d. a day, and 3s. a week is 5d. a day, and if my hon. Friend attempted to lay down 3s. as an alternative, the arguments against his proposal would be only slightly less strong than those against the 2s.


Are you in favour of it or against it, so that we shall know how to deal with you at the General Election?


I can only say that under this Clause the amount of any allowance to be granted under this Part of this Act to an applicant shall be determined by reference to his needs, including the needs of any members of the household of which he is a member. Can we lay down a definition of the word "needs"? If we are to do so, it seems to be a rather dangerous thing to lay down a figure of 3s. as an appropriate definition of the weekly need of a child. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a minimum figure."] The hon. Member who recently spoke from the Front Bench, and who knows a great deal more about Poor Law than I do, referred to the danger of this Amendment, and the small experience I have of these matters has led me to fear that if you lay down a minimum it is always in danger of being interpreted as a maximum. On that ground alone I feel highly suspicious of this Amendment. I could not give any alternative figure which I should feel was open to no objections, and I do not see that it is within the province of this Clause to do so. If we find that the board lays down regulations which we believe are not sufficiently generous, it will then be in our power to discuss them. I am, however, very averse from any suggestion that we should now lay down a needs scale which in my judgment is inadequate to any particular category of the dependants who come under this Clause.

9.27 p.m.


I rise to support this Amendment proposed by the junior hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam). I do so for many reasons. For many years, I had a great deal to do with the administration of unemployment benefit as chairman of the Employment Exchange at Farnworth, and I also served on the public assistance committee of Farnworth, which is a branch of the Bolton Public Assistance Committee. I have, therefore, a wide experience of both these branches of administration. Knowing what I do of the unemployment that exists in my district, I feel that 3s., as has been stated, is little enough for a child. Although I shall do so reluctantly, I shall be compelled to go against the Government in the Lobby. I shall be bound to do so, because I have a clear conscience on this point. In my district there are 8,000 odd unemployed in a population of 30,000, and there are a tremendous number of children. There are 13 mills closed down to-day and four or five collieries, as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) will tell us. You can see these people day by day labouring under extraordinary difficulties, unable to find the wherewithal to provide their children with the means to live comfortably and properly.

If we want an Al nation we must shape ourselves and see to it that we provide the material. I was chairman of a tribunal during the War, and we heard there a great deal about Al fitness and that the men whom we were sending were in class C3. We were told afterwards that we wanted an Al nation. If we want an Al nation, let us by all means see to it that we provide the means with which to make an Al nation. I have every reason to be grateful to the Minister of Labour; he has been kind to me, and so has the Parliamentary Secretary, on many occasions. I feel, nevertheless, that I am bound in honour to go into the Lobby against him on this point. I am sorry that this should occur, because I know that a good many of my supporters will not agree with me, but I am here with a clear conscience, feeling that what I am doing is the right thing.

9.30 p.m.


I should like to say a word or two on the speech that has been made by the Parliamentary Secretary. The hon. Gentleman does not justify the sum of 2s., nor does he justify a sum of 3s. He said that neither sum was considered to be the standard of maintenance for the child, or ever had been. What we are now considering is in the nature of an instruction, or at least of an advice, to the new Public Assistance Board, and the board, when it is set up, will have to rest its judgment either on Acts of Parliament or on expressions of opinion in Parliament. If its Members turn to Part I of the Act in an attempt to find evidence on which to base their judgment of what is the need of the householder, they will find that that part of it which concerns the child has been assessed by Parliament at 2s. They will find that in all the Employment Exchanges of the country to-day children are actually being paid—or at least their parents are being paid—unemployment benefit on the basis of 2s. Unless they can see some intimation from this House that hon. Members consider that 2s. is not enough, the natural thing for the board to believe is that, if the insured person who has paid his contributions and is in receipt of insurance can only receive under Part I 2s. for each child, Parliament expected it not to pay benefit for the child of that person, when he passes out of insurance, at a higher sum than 2s.

The hon. Member who moved the Amendment put up an unanswerable case, and the Parliamentary Secretary was astute enough not to attempt to answer it. The case was that the man who has been unemployed for a period of not less than six months has used up his resources and also his benefits. During the whole of that period he has been living on a basis that the Parliamentary Secretary in his speech to-night said was not a basis of maintenance and was never meant to be one. Surely, if this scale which is assessed under Part I of the Act was never meant to be a maintenance scale and is in fact not a maintenance scale, the result of a continuation over a period of not less than six months on that basis must mean a physical deterioration in the family of that man and particularly in his children. When the time comes that the man is no longer able to receive insurance benefit and comes to the board for consideration, he and his children will then be in such a physical condition that they are inferior to the ordinary employed man and his children.

The question therefore appears to me to be one of humanity or brutality. The humane man will say that the unemployed men and their children have had a very trying time and that they have been through a terrible experience for which they are in no way responsible. The Parliamentary Secretary says that we do not profess to provide them with a scale of maintenance. We have provided them for six months with a scale of benefit which includes 2s. for each child, and when at the end of that time a man goes to the Assistance Board, the humane person would say that in view of his trying experience during that long period of unemployment it is probable that his children's physical condition will be at a very low state, and that when the assessment of the needs of the household is being made by the Assistance Board they should assess each of the children's need at not less than 3s.

Surely that is a reasonable thing to ask, and I am surprised at the flippant way in which the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the moving speech of the Mover of the Amendment. He seems to take it as a joke, and he is laughing at it now. I live among these children—perhaps he does not—and I see the physical deterioration of the children of the unemployed every day of my life. I see it among the children of my own friends. I remember the births of some of them, and I remember them going to school; I have seen the father fall out of work and the deterioration of the children that has followed. I advise the Parliamentary Secretary to read the report of the Ministry of Health on the condition of children in the schools. He will find that as a consequence of continued long unemployment there is serious physical deterioration among the children. [Interruption.]


I cannot hear what the hon. Member says if other hon. Members are continually talking.


I protest against the flippant way in which the Amendment was dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary. I have heard somebody say to-day that the Minister is very sympathetic towards the children. I hope he is and that he will show his sympathy. If the Amendment is badly worded, he knows how to get over it. If it is not in the right form the Minister knows that its intention is to raise the standard of the children of the unemployed man who has ceased to be in insurance or who has not been in insurance. I hope that the Minister will say, in view of the generally expressed opinion of so many Members of all parties that the accepted standard is too low, that he will put down an Amendment for the Report stage to meet the purposes of this Amendment. The people generally will praise his action. If this Amendment were left to a free vote, there would be a majority for it.

9.40 p.m.


The Committee is under an obligation to the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, if only because it allows the Committee to take a second look at the decision arrived at during the discussion on this point in Part I. I rather gathered from the speech of the hon. Member and the speeches on the opposite side that the real objective of the Mover is to prevent the board and its officers regarding the 2s. which was inserted in Part I as the considered opinion of the House of Commons as to what is required to maintain or to assist in the maintenance of a child. I listened with great interest to the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary—a reply of great ability. It was the first acknowledgment Which I have heard from him as to the general practice which prevails in the assessment of need. It is true that it is possible under this Amendment that, although the child's need may be assessed in that way, the household may not benefit. That is the danger of the Amendment, and, although the danger is there, the Front Bench can accept the Amendment without very great risk.

The hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedderburn) told us that if we insert in the Bill the minimum 3s. it will in practice become the maximum. How can that argument be maintained when we have already inserted 2s. in Part I? If the minimum of 3s. will become the maximum, it is logical that the minimum of 2s. will become the maximum unless the Amendment is accepted. I was carried away by the logical arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary, but, in view of what has been said by his own supporters, I feel that the balance of argument has been moved to the other side. It is essential for the House of Commons to remember that once Part II leaves the House the effective control has gone from us, and, if we leave it possible for the officers of the board to point not merely to the decision of the House of Commons on Part I, but to the fact that we rejected an Amendment to increase the amount in Part II, we shall make the tendency of the administration to err on the side of caution and of a continuation of the under-assessment of need in regard to children.

I have stated over and over again in the House that there is going on in the unemployed population an undermining of health, not so much of the children, as of the mothers, because of this allowance. The mother will not allow the child to suffer if she can help it, and all the examination that goes on in the schools does not reveal the real danger of the situation, which is that the vitality of the motherhood of this country is being undermined by these regulations. Therefore, I hope the Minister will see, especially after the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, that there is a danger in allowing this Amendment to be rejected, because that action will be construed by the officers on whom the work of administration will fall as emphasising the decision of the Committee when they passed the figure of 2s. in Part I. For those reasons we on these benches will support the Amendment if hon. Members take it to a Division, but I hope the Government will accept it.

9.46 p.m.


I do not wish the Committee, after hearing the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Curry), to be under any misapprehension as to what I said. I am sure that, unwittingly, he was not doing me justice. I never suggested for one moment, and I do not think any hon. Members who heard me could have been left under that impression, that if this Amendment were rejected it would have any influence on the officers in deciding what ought or ought not to be the figure. What will happen, what I was pleading for, was that the board should be given a free hand to lay down their own figure in the regulations, and I specifically pointed out that until this House had affirmatively approved those regulations they would not come into operation. Therefore, the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland certainly cannot arise out of anything that I have said.


In accepting the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary I wish to say that I had no desire to misrepresent him. I think he did not follow the break which I made in my speech when I transferred my affections, for the time being only, to an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House.

9.48 p.m.


I venture to ask the Minister not to turn a deaf ear to the many appeals made to him, and to remember that, in the main, they have come from his best supporters, and especially from those who represent industrial constituencies and have a knowledge of industrial conditions. That is a fact which I trust he will not overlook. It is quite clear that the mass of the Committee is agreed on two propositions. The first of them cannot be more simply expressed than in the words of the famous declaration of Geneva on the rights of the children—that a child must be given the means requisite for its normal development. On every ground, moral, economic and political, we recognise the wisdom of that proposition. No one can foresee the mischief that will occur to a nation which disregards that elementary rule. It is of very wide application, and I sometimes wonder whether a large number of persons do not now realise what fools we were to allow the child population of Germany to be undernourished after the War. We then sowed a crop, and for many generations we shall bitterly regret it.

The second proposition on which the Committee seem to be absolutely agreed is equally obvious, namely, that we cannot provide the average child with a minimum of food and clothing at a figure of less than 3s. a week. If we are agreed on that there remains the simple problem of whether it is wise to express those propositions in this Bill or not. We hold strongly that it is important to segregate the child from the general problem of allowances, but whether it is best done in this Bill or not is a matter reasonably open to argument. We have been told that to put a figure in the Bill when there are no other figures of any kind in it is to introduce a dangerous standardisation, because the minimum figure tends not only to be a standard figure but very often the maximum. I suppose that is the oldest argument in relation to the question of minimum standards which we hear in this House. I remember it first on the Bill dealing with the miners' minimum wage in 1912, it occurred again in connection with the Agricultural Wages Boards in 1917 and it crops up regularly whenever there is a suggestion for introducing a minimum figure into a Bill. It is a very powerful argument.

If the Minister would give an assurance that he would not approve any scale put before him in which a figure lower than 3s. was proposed for the children, I should prefer such a declaration of his intentions to a figure in the Bill. It is a declaration which he can give on his own responsibility. I do not want him even to bind his successor. I am quite prepared to accept his declaration for the first set of regulations which will be presented to this House. If he is not in a position to give us any declaration, if he says that the board must start de novo without instruction from this House, then I am afraid that on this occasion those of us who support this Amendment must really part company with him. We regard it as of the greatest importance for the protection of the children that Parliament should quite clearly affirm that 3s. is a minimum below which it is not prepared to go.

9.53 p.m.


I understand that the Committee have been informed by the Parliamentary Secretary that this is an Amendment which will not achieve the object which my hon. Friend desires of giving 1s. extra to the children, but both he and the Minister must know very well that that is no answer to the point we put forward. The fact that an Amendment like this has been put on the Paper by supporters of the Government is in itself a sign and a warning not merely of opinion in the country but of what has happened to the children. For two years now we on these benches have complained of the means test. It was said that we were wrong, but it is now seen that £56,000,000 have been taken from the transitional payment people in two years, and the Committee cannot ignore the fact that that has resulted in a state of things where we have the chief medical association of this country declaring that masses of the people have not a proper standard of life. First there was an investigation in Stockton, and the medical officer there said that if people lived in better houses they were going to have less food to eat. Then there came an investigation in Newcastle.

The Minister of Health, standing at that Box, told me that he did not accept those standards of judgment, did not accept the result of those investigations. Now we find ourselves in a position where the British Medical Association accept the statements of those two doctors on their investigations, and, because they have to some extent a public responsibility for the condition of the people, they have entered into a controversy with the Minister of Health as to how much a man can live on without almost starving to death. This resulted in consideration about the standard of health of the child. I believe, in spite of what has been stated by the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, that the children of this country are suffering where the means test is in widespread operation. I will tell the Committee why I assume that. In my own part of the country we happen to have a Labour county council, and in increasing numbers we have had to give milk meals to the children for the past year or two. I am proud of the fact that we have been enabled to supplement the household incomes by something like 500,000 milk meals for children. That is sufficient indication that there is want in the homes where the means test is in operation.

Here is an opportunity. The Government say that there is not to be a destitution test such as has been operating in the past. If that is the truth, where can the Government start better than among the children? If they want the Committee and the country to believe that they are sincere, here is an opportunity for them to make a statement as to what they are going to do. Let them begin with the children. It is unnecessary to say that this is a clumsy Amendment. It is a clumsy Amendment, but it is not half as clumsy as the direct negative that has been given. We have played our part to-night in getting as full discussion upon this matter as possible. I am not concerned about party politics in this matter, and it is not any good the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) looking at me like that. I will give proof that I am not concerned about party politics. We are concerned, as one hon. Gentleman has already said, that during the War we had the shame of seeing a C3 population. Up and down the country, responsible people in the Government and in local councils were saying, "Never again," but the operation of the means test has made it quite clear, according to medical officers, that once more we are on the march to the C3 population. This is a test for a Government who mean business, and for every man and woman in this House who stand for human rights.

9.58 p.m.


I am very sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary did not tell the Committee even approximately what this Amendment would actually cost. I admire the resolute way in which he at all times stands up for what he regards as right rather than for what would be popular. I know also that the Minister of Health has a real interest in the children as distinct from a political interest in them. It must be well known to the Ministry that they are making the position of the loyal supporters of the Government very difficult in the constituencies. We should do anything that we can to make clear the real intentions of the Government to raise the standard of life not only of the worker but of the workless. The Minister himself admitted just now, for the first time I understand, that there is a higher standard even than that which is expressed by this equivalent of 2s.

If the Parliamentary Secretary will look at the Amendment he will see that the Bill would not be hurt in any way by the inclusion of these words. As a loyal supporter of this Government, I voted for 2s. in Part I of the Bill, because I realised that Part I is an insurance proposition and that it has to balance itself. If it were overweighted, there would follow the same disaster as was experienced in 1931. In Part I there is the principle of insurance which must at all costs be maintained, but in Part II we are dealing with those who, for a long time, have been faced with the hopelessness of their situation, and who look out on life's problems through a mist of tears. Their credit is gone, their friends know they have been out of work for a long time, and they cannot get things which are necessary to sustain the lives of those for whom they are responsible. I ask the Minster if he will meet us in any way, so that it may be quite clear to the country that the Government are just as much interested in the welfare of the children as any Labour Member. If they will do that by adopting these words—in spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, they will not affect the operation of the Clause—it will be a guide to the people at the Ministry, it will help the Government, it will help us, and above all, it will help the children in the land.

10.3 p.m.


Various hon. Members have spoken on this Amendment and told us about the distress they have seen in their own divisions, and even in their own homes. I represent a division where the percentage of unemployed is about as high as in any in the country. It comes nearer home to me than that, because some of my grandchildren are subject to these conditions and are receiving 2s. per week. Some of us know what is happening to those homes. The statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, who made a clever debating speech, did not touch the essential point in regard to this Amendment. He said that they had never looked upon 2s. as the proper maintenance for a child, and he seemed to indicate that, because this Amendment was put down for 3s., they were going to look upon that sum as a proper standard of maintenance. That is not what the Amendment means, because neither 2s. nor 3s. is a proper maintenance standard for a child. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment argued that the Unemployment Assistance Board should have instructions from this House not to pay less than 3s. in respect of any child.


I must interrupt the hon. Member for one moment to point out that the Amendment does not say "not to pay less than 3s. to any child," but proposes that the board shall not reckon the need of a child at less than 3s. It does not necessarily mean that the child gets paid.


You have put the point, Captain Bourne, in better language than I could, but I think it comes to the same thing. When we were discussing the question whether the allowance should be 2s. or 3s. in connection with Part I of the Bill, one of the arguments used by the Government was that the scheme was purely an insurance scheme, and it was not desired that the Statutory Committee which would be responsible for the financial administration of Part I should have as a legacy the duty of deciding what the allowance for children should be. We are now, however, outside Part I, and, consequently, there is no question of its being an insurance scheme, so that on that ground I think the Minister would be quite safe in handing on the provision proposed in this Amendment as an instruction to the new Unemployment Assistance Board.

Without going into the question of the effects of unemployment on the children, I would ask whether Parliament ought not to give a lead to the local authorities in this matter. Surely the time has come when Parliament should be prepared to say to this new authority that there should be a certain minimum allowance for these children. We have had Debate after Debate with regard to laying down what public assistance committees should disregard, and so on, and finally the Minister brought in a Bill to give a lead to them as to what they should do. While we did not agree with all that was in that Bill, we did agree that it was right to give such a lead. Surely, Parliament might on this occasion also take its courage in its hands and lay down, as a direct instruction from the House of Commons, what the board ought to do in this respect.

10.8 p.m.


I think we all wish to attain the same object, namely, to ensure that, when the needs of persons who are under this part of the Bill come to be assessed, they shall be assessed at a figure which will result in payments sufficient to maintain all the persons concerned in good health. The question we have to decide at the moment is whether the Amendment before us helps or hinders that object. After listening to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, I cannot say that I think he made out his case. After all, the Bill might have set out to define in terms the word "need," just as it might have set out in terms a scale of allowances; but, in fact, neither has been done, both of these questions being left to the discretion of the board.

This Amendment asks that we should, while leaving the general definition of need to the board, lay down a partial definition or limit in respect of one particular item. That appears to me on the face of it to be most unwise. In particular it is open to the obvious objection that in such circumstances there is a risk that the minimum might become a maximum. I think that, having left the rest of the definition of need to the board, it would be very much better to leave this item also to their determination. I was struck, too, by the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). It is true that he said he would support the Amendment, but he showed from his own experience the risks that he saw in it. I hope that the Committee will not allow themselves to be swayed, by the natural sentiment that proposals of this kind always arouse, into agreeing to an Amendment which in my view could not accomplish the object which hon. Members have at heart, and might easily work against it.

10.11 p.m.


I think that nearly everyone in the House takes the view that the 2s. which is now being paid, or even the 3s. suggested by this Amendment, is not adequate; but, nevertheless, it may be said that 3s. is better by 50 per cent. for the child than the 2s. I am not arguing whether the doctors are right or wrong, but I take it that the human instinct of the House is that at the present standards the child of an unemployed person is not sufficiently maintained. The House is now passing a new Bill, and wants to see that the child is properly maintained, or, at least, better maintained than is now the case. Experience under all Governments has shown that the present amount is not enough, and, in fashioning the new Bill, the House is called upon to say, before the Bill goes out of its hands, how it will provide that the children shall be better treated than before. It is not sufficient for the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scrymgeour-Wedderburn) to say that this board has powers. It has been found that the 2s. is not enough, and I would ask, what power is Parliament now going to give in order to make certain that the 2s. which has for so long been a fixed amount shall not by any chance be the fixed amount for the future? That is the issue. If you leave it to the board, while they have the power to make it five or 10, they ought to have power to make it two, and the House of Commons ought to lay down a minimum figure.

The House of Commons says that a man who has served in the War and has a pension because he has certain disabilities needs a minimum standard of comfort, and it fixes a figure so that the ex-service man shall be exempt from the worst ravages of the means test. You do not say the board is wrong or that it is bad. You do not say the board would not treat the ex-service man decently, but you take certain steps to make sure, and you insert a limit for him. Similarly, under National Health Insurance, you say that, in the case of a man or woman who is sick, the first 7s. 6d. shall be exempt. You do not allow sickness beyond a certain minimum to pass from your control. You can take risks with the ex-service man and with the sick, but you cannot take any risks with the children. I have all along been a moderate politician. I take three because it is better than two. I would take four or five. When the Labour Government was in, we moved 5s., but I would have taken 3s. from them as a compromise. A man does not need to live with children from day to day to see that 2s. is not enough.

I give the House credit for wanting to do the right thing. They can fix standards for the Army and for the Navy and for the Empire. Surely it is not too much to ask this great House of Commons to fix a standard for the frailest and most defenceless section of the community. I remember someone saying during the mining strike: "The miners fight and the employers fight. I take no side in the dispute, but I make an appeal to keep the children out of the battle ground." Whatever you may fix for the unemployed let the House of Commons fix a figure which will remove the children from the battle ground.

10.19 p.m.


I rather hope, despite the hon. Member's appeal, that we shall put no figure whatever into the Bill. We are letting the board assess the need because we know that one unemployed man does not pay the same rent as another and that the cost of living may be higher on one side of the country than another. We are trying by the Amendment to cut right through that principle and say, whatever the rent may be, whatever part of the country a man may live in, we are to put down a standard minimum rate of benefit. It is a standard minimum rate for the whole of the country, although the standards may be absolutely different in one county compared with another and the rents completely different. You are allowing the board to look at the circumstances of every family to find out what amount of rent they have to pay and to assess their needs on the broad basis of the household, and for that reason we are asked to put down this standard rate all over the country, departing once and for all from the very good principle in this Bill. It is clear, and it has worked time and time again in this country, that when you put down a minimum rate it tends to become the maximum rate. We all know that, with regard to the Agricultural Wages Board and other matters of that sort, it always tends to become the maximum rate. If the Government in drafting this Bill had inserted a minimum figure of 3s. a week, what a tremendous outcry there would have been that 3s. was not enough for the children, but now they come along with a similar Amendment themselves. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, they sup-supported the position pretty enthusiastically.


It is one of your own party.


I realise that fact, but it is supported very strongly by hon. Members opposite. There would have been a tremendous outcry if it had been put into the Bill that the minimum should be 3s. per child. It is far better to leave the matter in the hands of the board. If you were to put in a minimum for each child, you would be justified in putting in a minimum for a man and a minimum for his wife as well, and, in fact, a minimum for everybody else who lived in the house. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] It is absurd; it is largely sentimental. It is not really the way to legislate for this country by putting in such an allowance as is asked for the children. The real thing to do, if we are to trust the board at all, and the majority of the Committee are trusting the board, is to have confidence in it. The hon. Members over there who are supporting my hon. Friends do not trust the board at all. They would not have it if they could help it. We who support the Government are setting up the board, and in setting it up by our votes in this House, are we having confidence it it or are we not? If by our votes we support and set up the board, let us repose some confidence in it from the start and give it power to refer to the needs as is provided in the Bill. I would say to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that there seems to be some difference in the point which he raised and the point of the need. There we are allowing a man not to return some of his means in the case of the ex-service man and his pension. He does not return the whole of his means. Some of his means are not taken into account. On the other hand, in this case we are trying to pass an Amendment to lay down a definition with regard to the needs.


The hon. and gallant Member has not followed the point. If a man has a pension from the Army for long service, it is not exempt. There must be disability. He receives exemption because of his disability, or, in other words, because of his greater need in the same way as exemption is being asked in respect of a child.


At any rate, you are exempting something which he has coming in. You are exempting half his disability pension, or half his weekly payment by way of pension. That has been more or less statutory.


It was statutory. It was left to the local authorities and it was because they were not doing justice that a figure was inserted.


A figure having once been inserted it is kept in the Bill. We have never, as far as I know, inserted in the statutory conditions for local authorities a rate for children. That is sought to be done for the first time. I think it is far better to leave it at large for the board to decide. If it is found that the board is not doing what this House thinks right it will be a matter upon which pressure may be brought to bear upon various Ministers of Labour until, in the same way that was done in the original case, a figure may be incorporated in the Act of Parliament. While we are putting our confidence in the board to carry out its duties I do ask the supporters of the Government to give their confidence to the board and to allow it a free hand in assessing the needs of families, wherever they are.

10.27 p.m.


I confess that I find it difficult to follow the logic of the argument placed before the Committee by the hon. and gallant Member. On the next page of the Bill there is a list of items which are to be disregarded in assessing need. There is no question of minimum there. They are specific sums of money. The reasons why those exceptions have been inserted are pretty obvious. They fall under three heads and are relevant to the consideration of the Amendment. It is obvious that the reason why the first five shillings of sick pay is not counted is that the need of the applicant at a time of sickness is estimated to be greater than in the time of health. Pensions for wounds or disability are to be disregarded to a certain extent because of the source from which they are derived and the reason for which they are granted. The exemption of a certain amount of investment is on social grounds because the State has assumed that it is wise in the interests of the State that savings to a certain extent should not be brought into account. A reason which reinforces the argument for the Amendment is that it is socially desirable from the point of view of the State that at least a certain minimum should be introduced into the Statute.

The Parliamentary Secretary, in the very dexterous speech he made in reply to the opening speech of the Mover of the Amendment, said: "It does not very much matter whether you have this Amendment put into the Bill or not, because the ultimate position of the applicant may be no better after the Amendment than before." I am prepared to take the risk. I know that I cannot be worse off, and very likely I may be better off. It is true that very often the insertion of a minimum figure means that the minimum becomes the maximum, but I am prepared to face even that possibility because it will still be a figure 50 per cent. above the present maximum. Although no figure is laid down I believe it is the almost universal practice for 2s. to be regarded as the maximum for a child, so that this minimum, even if it becomes a maximum, will mean that the children will be 50 per cent. better off than they were before. The hon. Member rather sneered at hon. Members because they voted against the Amendment brought forward in the last Parliament by Miss Jennie Lee. I am almost alone of present Members of the House who went into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his colleagues on that Amendment—


So did I, and other hon. Members.


The same considerations which influenced me on that occasion again influence me to support the Amendment. I am not prepared to say that, in the part of London which I know best, the physical health of the children has much deteriorated, but I do say, and the Parliamentary Secretary will find it recorded by local medical officers of health, that the maternal mortality has grown so great during the period of unemployment that it is comparable to the worst years of this century. This is attributed to the fact that mothers in that particular locality have been prepared to sacrifice themselves, and weaken themselves, in order that their children shall not suffer. For that reason alone this figure should be supported. The Committee will be well advised to insert it in the Bill, either in the words of the Amendment or, if they are not appropriate, in words which the Minister can bring forward on Report stage. I do not think that the reference to the 2s. in Part I of the Bill and the Debate which took place, is at all irrelevant, because the board in allocating relief, in assessing need, under Part II will be bound, consciously or unconsciously, to have regard to the figure of 2s. in the first part of the Bill. I want to see it made abundantly clear by inserting a minimum of 3s. that there is no association between the needs to be assessed under this part of the Bill, and the specified allowance for children under Part I of the Bill.

10.34 p.m.


I should like to add my appeal to the Government to accept the Amendment or at least to undertake that on the Report stage they will give effect to it in possibly more suitable language and perhaps in a better place in the Bill. I was not at all impressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Major Llewellin) when he referred to the 3s. minimum as a figure which should not be fixed in the Bill in view of the varying cast of living in different parts of the country. You cannot find any part of the country, even that part where the living is cheapest and clothing is cheapest, where 3s. would be too much. I know that my hon. Friend did not suggest that it was too much, but he said it was undesirable to fix a minimum of 3s. for the whole country in view of the fact that conditions vary so much. The wording of the Amendment provides ample latitude for those differences.

I do not think the Government realised how painful it was to many of us, when we were dealing with the question of children's allowance under Part I, to vote as we did against their increase to 3s. For my own part I did it because we were dealing with the insurance part of the Bill, and in dealing with a figure which was not regarded as being the need of a child but as what the insurance fund could afford, we could not allow sentiment to enter and upset the whole equilibrium. But here we are dealing with something different, not with the insurance fund but with unemployment assistance. Why should we leave the matter to the Unemployment Assistance Board without any expression of opinion from this House? Why should we leave the whole of it to the board? The Parliamentary Secretary said that when the board makes the regulations, the regulations will have to be submitted to this House and that the House will have an opportunity of expressing its views as to the adequacy or otherwise of the various allowances. I should imagine that when the regulations come forward they may be very voluminous, and it may be that we shall be again confronted with a Guillotine Motion and have no opportunity of expressing any views on the children's allowance or other allowances.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Boothby) expressed the view that the House was getting very uneasy as to the Government's attitude on this question of the adequacy or other- wise of the children's allowance. I would go further and say that the whole country is getting uneasy. It is very painful for many of us who have spent a good part of our lives doing what we can to help children, to receive letters from ministers of religion, from charitable bodies and organisations that are trying to do good, and to find that they are apparently regarding us s a lot of cold-blooded heartless machines who think that the 2s. allowances, which is all that insurance is providing, is adequate for the maintenance of a child. I appeal to the Government, if they do not accept the Amendment, at least to give us some assurance that, although they may regard it as unnecessary, they will give effect to the spirit of it on the Report stage and so tell the country that they are not heedless of the needs of the children.


Are we going to have the Government reply to-night? We ought to have it if possible.

10.39 p.m


Believe me I am under no doubt or misapprehension as to the strong feeling in the Committee on this question, and let me say that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and myself are just as anxious and just as determined to get a humane administration of this business as is anyone in the Committee. It is just because I am more than anxious that I am convinced that this Amendment, so far from achieving the end aimed at, would gravely endanger and prejudice it. We are asked to insert a minimum of 3s. per week in respect of each dependent child. The hon. and gallant Member for Bethnal Green (Major Nathan) said he was prepared to take the risk of that 3s. being regarded as a maximum. I am not. I believe if you put in this 3s. it will inevitably be regarded as a maximum, and I am not prepared to say that 3s. is an adequate amount for a growing boy of 12 or 13 years. I am not going to take the risk of the board being led to the conclusion to which they would necessarily be led if that figure were inserted.

I say that you must regard the income of the household as a whole and if you put in 3s. here you will not in the least be achieving your end. On the other hand, as I have said, you may prejudice it. I have been asked to give an assurance that I would not approve of any figure less than 3s. How far would that take you? It would not take you any way at all. Suppose I say that I will not approve of a figure less than 3s. for a child at the same time leaving all the rest of the scale open, it would not take you any way at all. I have observed an anxiety in all parts of the Committee lest what took place the other night on Part I of the Bill would be regarded by the board as a precedent for them to follow under Part II. That point was urged with great force by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) among others. I was not present when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary spoke on this matter, but he tells me that he assured the Committee over and over again that there is no connection at all between the rates of benefit under Part I of the Bill and the assessment under Part II.

I give that assurance also, but, if the Committee prefer it, I will insert in subsequent stages of the Bill an Amendment giving an assurance to that effect. Of course, I have not the exact words here, but I will insert an assurance to the effect that the assessment under Part II shall not necessarily be governed by the rates of benefit under Part I. That will put into the Statute itself the assurance for which hon. Members have asked. But I am certain that the Committee would be very ill advised to accept the Amendment. So far from having the results which they desire, it would in all probability go very far towards defeating their object. I would, in conclusion, remind the Committee that the House of Commons will yet have control in this matter. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Curry) said that all control had gone and that no safeguard remained in regard to administration. That is not so, because it is carefully provided in the Bill that the regulations which govern this matter shall be approved by the House by an affirmative Resolution.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether such a Resolution will be susceptible to amendment?


The hon. and gallant Member knows the answer to that question before he asks it. The whole of this discussion to-night would have been much more appropriate to the Debate on the regulations. But with the assurance that I have given, that I will see to it that there will be no connection between the benefits under Part I and the discretion of this House with regard to Part II, I hope the Committee will be satisfied.

10.45 p.m.




Divide! divide!


I have spent practically every moment on this bench since this Bill started, and up to the present I have not spoken for five minutes, and I am prepared to wait until the shouting dies down in order to say one or two words. So far as the Minister's promise is concerned, it means a promise of absolutely nothing. The whole purpose of the Government resisting this Amendment is this, that if they give way on this Amendment, they know that logically they must increase the benefit under Part I also to each child. Surely, we are not going to suggest that any person under an insurance scheme will be worse off than a person under Part II.


Does the hon. Member overlook the fact that under Part I there is no need test, but that under Part II there will be a need test?


I am saying that if we pass this Amendment giving an instruction to the board that they shall assess the need of a child at not less than 3s., it will mean that it would have to be 3s. under Part I, because no one would say that the child of an insured person had any less need than the child of a person under this part of the Bill.


I think the hon. Member is overlooking one important point, and that is that the resources granted under Part I can be supplemented by the assistance granted under Part II.


I am not overlooking that at all, and if this Amendment were carried, it would help and not hinder that supplementation. The hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Major Llewellin) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) spoke about sentiment. This House seems always to resent that word "sentiment," but I sug- gest that it is absolutely cheap sentiment to say that every Member of the Committee desires that a child should have absolute sustenance and at the same time to resist a minimum of 3s. in order to enable that child to enjoy that sustenance. It is not sentiment that we are talking. We are laying it down that there should be a minimum of 3s. for the assessment of need of a child. Call that sentiment if you like, but I call it far more practical than making the statement here that you desire every child to be well nourished and then refusing to vote for a minimum of 3s. to sustain that child. I hope hon. Members will not be misled either by the Minister of Labour or by the Parliamentary Secretary in a promise which means absolutely nothing, but will vote according to their conscience to lay down a minimum of 3s. as the need of a child.

10.50 p.m.

Viscountess ASTOR

I feel that if the Minister were to accept this Amendment, he would help the future of the board. He said that the board naturally would not want a lot of guidance, but I am sure they will want some guidance. I was interested when the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), in his speech, turned and told us that the proposal had nothing to do with politics. I was thinking at that moment how his party had used this as political propaganda. I remember his speaking, when we were first getting a shilling a head for the children; the Labour party said that the Tories believed that a shilling a head was enough for a child. We never said that; we said it was better than nothing. The Labour party came in and gave two shillings a head, and the very hon. Member who turned with such passion just now was the Member who resisted the proposal to give two shillings. [Interruption.] You cannot keep this question out of politics as long as you have the Labour party going round the country.

This is one of the things that the Minister has to bear in mind. It is all very well talking about keeping this question out of politics; you cannot keep it out. You have a Government now who are doing far more for the children than any Government has ever done before. We ask the Minister not to put us in the position of having to go into the Lobby against him with people who only gave the children a shilling a head, and who, if they had remained in office, would not have given the children even that. Some of us feel very strongly about this matter. The Minister knows better than anyone in the country that at this moment 27 per cent. of the children who enter our elementary schools are physically defective in some way. If they were in a bad way when Labour was in, some of them are in a worse way now. It is not true that the children are nearly starving, but they are in a far worse way than they were two or three years ago.

I do not want to make it embarrassing for the Minister, but I say that he has put us in a difficulty by not accepting this Amendment. The whole of the House is with us, and this House should lay down to the board that three shillings a week is a minimum that every child should have. Everybody knows, as the Minister said, that the board will not lay down a figure; why should the House, therefore, not lay one down? Nobody believes for a moment that a child can be kept on three shillings a week, but we know that, unless this House gives a definite lead, the Labour people will go through the country saying that the National Government would not give the children three shillings a week. We want the National Government to go a shilling better than the Labour party. We plead with the Minister, who has done so well and has shown himself in such rare sympathy with the unemployed, to accept this Amendment and save many of us from going into the Lobby with people who did not like even to give the children two shillings.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 125; Noes, 177.

Division No. 115.] AYES. [10.55 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Bailey, Eric Alfred George Brass, Captain Sir William
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Banfield, John William Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Batey, Joseph Buchanan, George
Allan, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Bernays, Robert Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm
Aske, Sir Robert William Blaker, Sir Reginald Cape, Thomas
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Bracken, Brendan Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Attlee, Clement Richard Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Cocks, Frederick Seymour
Cove, William G. Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Owen, Major Goronwy
Cripps, Sir Stafford Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Paling, Wilfred
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainab'ro) Janner, Barnett Parkinson, John Allen
Curry, A. C. Jenkins, Sir William Peat, Charles U.
Daggar, George Jesson, Major Thomas E. Percy, Lord Eustace
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) John, William Price, Gabriel
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Denman, Hon. R. D. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Radford, E. A.
Dickie, John P. Kirkwood, David Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Dobbie, William Knight, Holford Rathbone, Eleanor
Edwards, Charles Law, Sir Alfred Rea, Walter Russell
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Robinson, John Roland
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Lawson, John James Salt, Edward W.
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Leckie, J. A. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Lees-Jones, John Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Fleming, Edward Lascelles Lindsay, Noel Ker Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Soper, Richard
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Logan, David Gilbert Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Lunn, William Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Lyons, Abraham Montagu Stones, James
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Mabane, William Storey, Samuel
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McEntee, Valentine L. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Sutcliffe, Harold
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Macmillan, Maurice Harold Templeton, William P.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W). Magnay, Thomas Thompson, Sir Luke
Gritten, W. G. Howard Mainwaring, William Henry Tinker, John Joseph
Groves, Thomas E. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Grundy, Thomas W. Mander, Geoffrey le M. White, Henry Graham
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Maxton, James Wilmot, John
Harbord, Arthur Milner, Major James Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Harris, Sir Percy Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Hepworth, Joseph Nathan, Major H. L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hicks, Ernest George Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Sir John Haslam and Mr. J. P. Morris.
Holdsworth, Herbert Nunn, William
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Duggan, Hubert John MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) McKie, John Hamilton
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Dunglass, Lord Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Atholl, Duchess of Eady, George H. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Eastwood, John Francis Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Edmondson, Major A. J. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Elmley, Viscount Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Marsden, Commander Arthur
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Fraser, Captain Ian Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Bateman, A. L Ganzoni, Sir John Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portms'th, C.) Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Gibson, Charles Granville Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Bossom, A. C. Gledhill, Gilbert Moreing, Adrian C.
Boulton, W. W. Goff, Sir Park Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gower, Sir Robert Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Boyce, H. Leslie Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Munro, Patrick
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Graves, Marjorie Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Broadbent, Colonel John Greene, William P. C. Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Gunston, Captain D. W. O'Connor, Terence James
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Guy, J. C. Morrison Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Browne, Captain A. C. Hanbury, Cecil O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Burghley, Lord Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Burnett, John George Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Patrick, Colin M.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Penny, Sir George
Castlereagh, Viscount Hore-Belisha, Leslie Petherick, M.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Horsbrugh, Florence Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Blist'n)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Christle, James Archibald Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Pybus, Sir Percy John
Clayton, Sir Christopher Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Ramsbotham, Herwald
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ramsden, Sir Euge[...]
Colman, N. C. D. Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Ratcliffe, Arthur
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Cook, Thomas A. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Copeland, Ida Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Remer, John R.
Craven-Ellis, William Ker, J. Campbell Rickards, George William
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Cross, R. H. Lewis, Oswald Ropner, Colonel L.
Crossley, A. C. Liddall, Walter S. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Llewellin, Major John J. Ross, Ronald D.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Lloyd, Geoffrey Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Dixey, Arthur C. N. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley) Salmon, Sir Isidore
Duckworth, George A. V. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. C. (Partick) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Scone, Lord Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Strauss, Edward A. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Strickland, Captain W. F. Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- Wells, Sydney Richard
Skelton, Archibald Noel Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles Wills, Wilfrid D.
Smith, R. W. (Abard'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Thorp, Linton Theodore Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Somervell, Sir Donald Titchfield, Major the Marquess of Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.) Womersley, Walter James
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Train, John Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Spens, William Patrick Turton, Robert Hugh Mr. Blindell and Lord Erskine.

It being after Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.

The remaining Orders were read, postponed.

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