HC Deb 27 February 1934 vol 286 cc1054-8

10.24 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to move, in page 44, line 32, after "persons," to insert: to whom transitional payments have been made and whose cases are recorded on a special case-paper. There is no doubt that the documents referred to in this Clause are the case-papers kept by the public assistance authorities, and that it is the intention of the board to have all the papers relating to able-bodied persons who are taken over by them under the provisions of the Bill. It seems a reasonable provision. There are two points to be considered. In the first place, these case-papers may relate not only to the men themselves but also to their families. In the second place, the transfer of able-bodied men to the Unemployment Assistance Board will not necessarily involve the future relief of their families by the board. As the Clause now stands it may cause a good deal of difficulty to public assistance authorities. The Minister will appreciate the difficulty that will be caused by this, and he may say that he will prefer to deal with it by departmental regulations to be issued in the future, but we cannot tell what those departmental regulations will be, and therefore we think that these words should be added to the Bill.

10.27 p.m.


I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member realises that the board will be taking over not merely persons hitherto in receipt of transitional payment but a considerable number of able-bodied persons hitherto in receipt of public assistance relief. He will realise the magnitude of the problem when he remembers that the scope of Part II of the Bill is approximately 17,000,000 persons as compared with 12,500,000 under Part I. There is therefore a contingent liability of nearly another 5,000,000 persons. If the Amendment were accepted, the board would have to exercise its powers under Sub-section (1) of Clause 49 to copy out all the existing case papers of persons in receipt of Poor Law relief. I think it is clear that that would involve the board in very great unnecessary expense. The hon. and gallant Member suggested that some of the families of the recipients would remain on the Poor Law, but in so far as they are dependents of the recipients they will be the care of the board and the board will take over responsibility, not merely for the men themselves, but for their dependents.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

They may come back under Clause 40.


If they come back to the public assistance committee under Clause 40 the board will undoubtedly give the case papers back to the committee. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may perhaps reply that the recipient who has hitherto been in receipt of Poor Law relief will in future be very likely to receive sick relief from the public assistance committee rather than able-bodied relief from the Assistance Board. My answer is that in that particular case, where it was probable that it would be more the medical needs of the man that were at issue than his needs under Part II, obviously the board would leave the case papers with the public assistance committee, and merely copy sufficient of the information thereon for the board's need. It will really be a matter of give and take between the board and the Committee, but we think that it is very undesirable to lay down these rigid restrictions in the Statute. I hope that with that explanation my hon. and gallant Friend will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.30 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 45, line 9, to leave out from "Health," to "be," in line 11.

Sub-section (5) of the Clause lays it down that when a marriage, death or birth certificate is required for the purposes of this Bill it can be obtained on certain terms. A birth certificate is to be obtainable for 6d. and a marriage or death certificate for 1s. I appreciate that these charges are less than the usual fees, but in this Amendment we are asking that these certificates shall be free to men who require them for the purposes of this Bill. One almost hesitates to argue this Amendment, because I have often heard the Parliamentary Secretary speak so glowingly of how persons are going to be treated under Part II, but I hope hon. Members will believe me when I say that it is not always possible for a man who has been out of work for six, nine or 12 months to find even 6d. or 1s. when he needs it. These will be men who have seen more dinner times than dinners, and whilst 6d. or 1s. is not much to those who are fairly well off a shilling is a difficult sum to get hold of in working-class life. It is not so easy to borrow a shilling as it used to be in times of prosperity. On that point I can speak with some experience.

We think the certificates ought to be free. I cannot understand what argument the Parliament Secretary can advance against the Amendment. He certainly cannot oppose it on the ground of cost, because this will not cost a great deal; and, if it should be resisted on the ground that it means a loss of fees to registrars or the superintendent registrar, that is a matter which could easily be adjusted. We have been told several times by the hon. Gentlemen opposite that our Amendments and our attitude were so reasonable that they might do something to meet us, and now I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary might accept this very modest Amendment. It will not cost very much money, and it may be doing a real service to some person who needs a certificate and has not sixpence or a shilling to spare.

10.33 p.m.


I am afraid that we cannot accept this Amendment, but, as on a previous occasion, I think that when I have explained the situation the hon. Member will agree that we are quite reasonable in refusing it. This particular concession as to the cost of certificates would really apply only to the class of persons mentioned in Clause 42, persons who have resources and who go to a training centre run by the board and who, owing to the fact that they are not in need, will not get an allowance from the board. In the case of the persons contemplated by the hon. Member, that is, those who apply to the board for an allowance, obviously they will be in need, and therefore will not be able to pay even this limited sum for a certificate. In those cases, a machinery like the present machinery of the Ministry will come into force and a certificate will be obtained free of cost to them. If this Amendment were passed, it would have the effect of seriously diminishing the income of the registrar: it will depend upon the amount of the fees what that income is. The procedure is that where a birth certificate or a marriage certificate is required by the Ministry, we pay the cost, and the cost appears under the heading of "Allied Services." Hon. Members will realise that this is only required for a very narrow class of persons, and that in fact there will be no charge.

10.36 p.m.


It appears to be very definite that in all cases where one of these certificates is required 6d. or 1s. would be paid, according to the nature of the case. If that is the intention of the Government, and as there are cases where resources do not allow people to pay that small amount, would it not be better to put something into the paragraph to make that absolutely clear, because I am afraid that the words as they are indicate that everybody will have to pay.


I think the meaning is clear, but I will certainly look into the matter again. If a person appears before the board and has to go to the expense of obtaining a certificate, that will increase his need pro tanto, and the board will have to take that into account as one of the needs to be met. I will certainly look into the point raised by hon. Members.

10.37 p.m.


We appreciate the reply of the hon. Gentleman, and in view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I understand that my hon. Friends will withdraw their Amendment. We shall take that course in order to avoid a Division and to give an opportunity for the Adjournment Motion.


After hearing the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, and on the understanding that he will look into the matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.