§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I beg to move, in page 46, line 21, to leave out from "and" to "Parliament," in line 22, and to insert "approved by."
The object of the Amendment is to ensure that Parliament will have an opportunity of examining and approving the rules referred to in Sub-section (1). Sub-section (1) reads:The Unemployment Assistance Board may make rules for carrying this Part of this Act into effect and in particular (without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision) with respect to all matters with respect to which rules are specifically required or authorised by this Act to be made under this Part of this Act (except rules authorised to he made under the last foregoing Section), but no rules made by the board shall have effect until confirmed by the Minister, and any such rules shall, when confirmed, be laid before Parliament.When we refer to the rules in this Clause we have to observe the functions of the board which is responsible for making the rules. That board comes into existence under Clause 34 and is designed to assume responsibility for the whole of the activities under Part II. The board is to consist of not more than six persons and is to have very definite functions imposed upon it. Clause 34 (2) says:The functions of the board shall be the assistance of persons to whom this Part of 1681 this Act applies who are in need of work and the promotion of their welfare and, in particular, the making of provision for the improvement and re-establishment of the condition of such persons with a view to their being in all respects fit for entry into or return to regular employment, and the grant and issue to such persons of unemployment allowances (hereinafter referred to as "allowances") in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act.The board is to have full responsibility for providing relief and assistance to all those persons who fall within Part II of the Bill and who have left Part I because their period of benefit has been exhausted. It affects a very considerable number of people; and, in addition, the conditions under which people receive benefit under Part II are different from those which are applicable to persons under Part I. These conditions are to be determined by the Unemployment Assistance Board which is to be responsible for making the rules referred to in Clause 51. These rules will apply to a variety of conditions and circumstances. In order to give effect to Clause 34 rules are necessary under Sub-section (2) of Clause 35, which says:Rules made under this Part of this Act may provide that a person shall, in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules, be deemed to be capable of and available for work notwithstanding such periods of occasional sickness or incapacity as may be specified therein.And so we go on. We find references to rules which have to be made by this board to meet special classes of beneficiaries and governing the conditions under which benefit may be allowed. In Clause 37 there is the controversial question as to the circumstances under which people under Part II of this Bill are to receive benefit, it is the question of the means test and family circumstances. There, again, the rules which will lay down the conditions for benefit are to be, made by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The whole range of administration is set aside for the authority and determination of this board, subject to their report to the Minister, who has reserved for himself the right to accept or disagree with their recommendations. They may submit their recommendations to the Minister and he may make alterations in them, but these recommendations, changed or unchanged according to the Minister's wisdom, are to come before this House, but they cannot be discussed. Parliament is to have no opportunity 1682 of suggesting any amendment or change in the rules. It is important that we should realise what we are doing in allowing this board to make these rules without adequate supervision by Parliament.
I ask hon. Members to read Clause 37 and see the wide scope of administration which is to be laid down in these rules. We have the comprehensive conditions under which the means test is to be administered, the measure of assistance to be given, the measure of family income which is to be taken into consideration, the allowances per head of the family; all these matters are subject to rules. There is nothing in the Bill which enables an hon. Member to know the conditions under which the means test and its administration is to be carried on in future. The Unemployment Assistance Board by these rules is to have full and complete control of the work and administration of Part II of the Bill, the largest and most important part as affecting the larger number of persons and a greater amount than under Part I. The people who are the most helpless and most dependent are to be left, not to the care of the Minister but of the Unemployment Assistance Board, who are to make their own rules in regard to administration without check or hindrance, and even without the consent and approval of Parliament. It is true that there is to be approval in a general way by Parliament, but Parliament is only entitled to say yes or no in a general way to these rules. They will not be able to amend them in any particular, make any alteration or rectify any injustice. The whole of this work is to be left in the hands of the Unemployment Assistance Board, who are to draw up rules in accordance with provisions laid down in Clauses 34, 35, 37, 38, 39 and 41, all of which will require the framing of rules.
We do not know yet who are to be the members of this board. We have no idea as to their quality and experience. The Minister only is to be entitled to disagree with them. This House is not at any stage to be taken into consideration or to have an opportunity of amending, revising or checking these rules. The whole of the work of relief under Part II is to be under the control of this board, and they will administer assistance in accordance with their own regulations. If we pass the Bill as it is we shall be 1683 adopting a centralised system which will make for a dead level of uniformity in administration, with no regard at all for local conditions and irrespective of the fact that conditions differ in one part of the country and another. By passing this Bill this House will have relinquished its right for all time of having any voice at all in the determination of the conditions under which 1,500,000 of our fellow countrymen with their dependents will receive that assistance which society is prepared to render them. This board, six in number, perhaps less, having made their rules and decided upon the form of administration which they think will suit their purposes best, will come to the Minister with their rules. He may say, "I do not quite like this rule," or that rule, and he may make suggestions or present alternative rules, but he is not entitled to take this House into his confidence or ask it to support him in any objections he may have to any recommendation. The Minister is defenceless against the board which is to be set up under this Bill.
We regard this part of the Bill with grave apprehension. This small number of people will be complete masters of the destiny of all those who ask for relief under Part II of the Bill, and it will be no use expressing sympathy about the vexatious questions which are troubling the minds of hon. Members in this House and people in the country at the present time. Journalists may go to the northeast coast and the county of Durham and write interesting, instructive and sympathetic reports as to the conditions there, but they will serve no useful purpose in arousing the sympathy of their fellow countrymen if in the meantime this board will have drawn up its rules against which there is no appeal or redress. If we pass the Bill unamended the people of this country will realise that the Parliament which they sent here to represent them has surrendered its responsibility to a small body of six people, who have no direct responsibility and who perhaps may have no experience or sympathy with the people whose lives they are to govern in this way. We shall press the Amendment. We hope that the Minister will accept it, and, in his own interests, reserve to himself the discretion not only to differ from the board but also to be able to press any amendments upon the board and take 1684 this House into his confidence in the framing of these rules. Before they are confirmed and become operative this House should be allowed an opportunity of expressing, word after word and line after line, its assent or dissent to the recommendations of the board. We distrust and fear very much the possibility of a bureaucratic administration of this kind.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
This is one of the most important Amendments which will be moved to the Bill. It deals with Part II and covers practically the whole working arrangements under that portion of the Bill. It deals with powers affecting at least 1,000,000 people, if the figures remain as they are. This is a Clause which sets up the machinery to decide the conditions of life for at least 1,000,000 unemployed people and their dependants, and it is therefore no exaggeration to say that it affects at least 3,000,000 souls in the country. We are discussing one of the most important features of our social life. I may be a little critical but I feel that if we were discussing 3,000,000 people who came from a more comfortable strata in our population this House would show itself, if provisions like this were contemplated, in a stronger and more dignified fashion. What are we discussing? We are handing over to the Minister and to this board the right to make regulations. The Solicitor-General will probably say in reply that the Minister possesses power under the Clause to differ from the board and that he can state his difference and ask Parliament to uphold him. Therefore the Minister retains power to differ from the board and can refuse to accept anything they may propose. That may be so, but we are discussing the lives of people. The Minister may be excellently advised and the board may be very well chosen. We do not know who the board will be. It is most important to recollect that we are discussing the work of a board the members of which we do not know. The board may be composed of the most autocratic people one can imagine. I know that rumour can lie, but if rumour be correct as to the names associated with the creation of this board, knowing some of them, I view with alarm the trusting of any kind of work to these particular people. The board may be anyone, but they may use their power in 1685 a grossly offensive way. Even if the board were composed of the most benevolent men we should remember that here we are laying down the conditions of their work. Let us take step by step the conditions that are to be laid down by the board. They are the conditions under which the income of a family will—
Under the Amendment that we are now discussing there is no question of any need test and what shall be taken into account in connection with the need test. Any reference to that subject would therefore not be in order. The subject can be raised under Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4), but not on Sub-section (1), to which the Amendment we are now discussing refers.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I did not intend to discuss the allowances to be made under the means test. I know that that point will arise later. But this Unemployment Assistance Board will have the power to frame and bring in rules dealing with the matter. The Board will bring in a series of rules dealing with points that have wholesale ramifications. The board may even bring in rules dealing with the question of rent, if a rent allowance is to be taken into account.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The board are to have the power to make rules which will decide how the people are to be dealt with. The board will control the machinery and it is very important machinery. In many respects it is machinery which means little less than life or death. The board will have the determining voice. They may bring in rules which lay down a man's right to an interview with the officials. The rules may mean that a man would be deprived of that right. One of the things that a board of this kind ought to do is to safeguard a man's right to meet the case that is made against him. When the rules are framed this House is to have the opportunity of rejecting or approving them. It may well be that we shall be forced into a dilemma. That dilemma will not be as great to hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, because generally speaking we shall adopt a very strong 1686 attitude against all these things. But other hon. Members may think differently. We may want to insist on modifications being made in the rules. It must not be forgotten that it is not the first rules only that we are discussing now, but subsequent Amendments that may be made to them by the board. The board themselves may find in practice that certain of the rules are wrong. The House of Commons and the country may realise that in practice certain rules want altering. The board may then bring in Amendments to the rules—amendments which public agitation has demanded. The amendments may have certain points of goodness about them. This House may wish to vote in favour of those rules which are good, but it has not power to do anything but vote in favour of the whole of them.
That is depriving the Opposition in this House of a constitutional right. When a Bill is going through the House and it contains a certain amount of good the Opposition may agree to a Second Reading while reserving the right to move Amendments in Committee later. That is a constitutional right and a practice which ought to be safeguarded by this House. These rules affect at least 1,000,000 of the unemployed and, counting those dependent on them, they affect millions. The rules will lay down the conditions under which the unemployed are to receive benefit. Part II of the Bill is different from Part I. It has wholesale ramifications. One is the abolition of payment in money and the substitution of payment in kind, a step which for the first lime is being taken in dealing with the unemployed. These rules will lay down how that payment in kind is to be made.
I view the proposal to make payment in kind with more abhorrence than any other part of the Bill. It is dragging us back to the Truck Acts. Members of all parties fought to abolish that system in the old days. Once the system of payment in kind is permitted here it becomes a danger to everyone. It is worse than imprisonment for those who are affected by it. Take the case of a city like Glasgow, where at one exchange 22,000 men sign the register. It may be said that some of these men are not to receive benefit in money. That is far worse 1687 punishment than imprisonment. It means that a man will be pointed out as one who is not like other men, that he is one who is not fit to receive money; and the rules that will govern that system are to be drawn up by this Board. Even a prisoner has the chance of a public trial at which he can state his defence, but here rules are to be laid down which will safeguard neither a man's public right nor his defence. Before the rules can be passed the least this House can demand is the right to revise them. The procedure should be analogous to the passing of an Act of Parliament. The ramifications of this Bill will be far wider than those of many Acts of Parliament. The rules should be laid before the House, they should be subject to Debate and Amendment, and only after the most careful scrutiny should they be passed by this House, for on them depend the well-being, happiness and comfort of millions of our fellow-people.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I feel sure after the two very impressive speeches to which we have listened that Members of the Committee will be in no doubt as to the gravity of the issues here involved. I am glad to see on the Front Bench my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General because I am sure that he is not likely to be a party to handing over to some bureaucratic body rights and duties which properly belong to the House of Commons. The two speeches to which I refer have been based on an assumption which may or may not be correct. The two hon. Members have I think assumed that the rules which will be made by this Unemployment Assistance Board under this Sub-section can be accepted or rejected by the House of Commons. I fear even that assumption is not correct. I do not profess to be an authority on procedure, but, as far as I can see, the House of Commons has not even the right of accepting or rejecting these rules. The Sub-section says:The Unemployment Assistance Board may make rules for carrying this Part of this Act into effect and in particular…with respect to all matters with respect to which rules are specifically required or authorised by this Act to be made under this Part of this Act…but no rules made by the Board shall have effect until confirmed by the Minister, and any such rules shall, 1688 when confirmed, be laid before Parliament. "This is where I speak subject to correction, and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will explain the matter to the Committee if he replies. As I see it, the position is that if a rule is laid before the House of Commons any Member may at some stage put down a Motion on the Paper dealing with that rule. If a Motion is put down in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, that Motion can be discussed after Eleven o'clock and thus time for its discussion is ensured. But if, as here, there is no provision in the Act of Parliament for putting such a Motion on the Paper, if the Act of Parliament merely says that certain rules are to be laid before Parliament, then, I understand, there will only be the opportunity to put a Motion on the Paper, but unless there is time for its discussion—and that is a great "unless"—nothing more will be heard of that Motion because it cannot be taken after Eleven o'clock and no time will be given for it before Eleven o'clock. As the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has said, these rules raise grave questions affecting the intimate interests of millions of people and it seems to me that they are likely to go by the board without discussion. The only safeguard will be that they must be confirmed by the Minister. In the present instance many of us would have a great deal of confidence that no bad rules would be allowed through if the Minister had to deal with them, but this may not always be the case and a Minister might be badly advised. It seems most important that there should be some kind of Parliamentary control over these rules and that there should be at least power to put down a Motion which can be discussed. I ask the Committee, before leaving this very important part of the Bill, to consider that aspect of the question and I ask the Government to give their favourable attention to this Amendment.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I wish to urge on the Solicitor-General a consideration which I raised at an earlier stage of the proceedings on this Bill. These rules are going to affect the liberty of the subject. They are going to place restraints upon numbers of subjects and to vary their rights and privileges in certain ways and I put it to him, as a student of our constitutional 1689 system, that if any such restraints are going to be placed on the subject, it is the duty of the House of Commons specifically to approve of them. I urge that consideration as a friend of the Bill. I think the system which the Bill proposes to set up is a good system but I recognise that it will begin under heavy difficulties and the Government responsible for it will have to meet all sorts of complaints founded or unfounded. I press upon my hon. and learned Friend that the system which is being inaugurated should be made watertight to this extent that where it imposes any restraint upon the liberty of the subjects such restraint should be directly approved by the House of Commons.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
Part II of this Bill is drawn in such a general manner that it is sometimes difficult for hon. Members to appreciate the nature of the powers which it proposes to confer on this board. Attempts have been made during the Committee stage to bring those powers into relief but although those attempts have met with some success they have been partially thwarted by the operation of the guillotine. Many of these Clauses have not been adequately discussed and there still exists in many parts of the Committee, and in the country, a very incomplete conception of the powers which the board is to enjoy. Therefore, I take this opportunity of reminding the Committee of the matters in respect of which the board will be able to make rules. I was rather surprised, Sir Dennis, at a Ruling which was given in your absence by the Deputy-Chairman, interpreting in a very restricted manner the matters to which this Amendment applies. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was attempting to show, I thought quite rightly, that the board would be allowed to make rules which would have the most intimate bearing upon the people concerned. The board in these rules will even have the right to decide what a family is. The whole question of the means test centres round this question of what is a family and the only guidance we have is in Clause 37 of the Bill, Sub-section (2) of which provides: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 1690 member who are dependent on, or ordinarily supported by, him.That is very general language. I have known households to consist of aunts and nephews and nieces and all sorts of people.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Is the Unemployment Assistance Board given the power to make rules in respect of Sub-section (2) of Clause 37?
§ Mr. BEVAN
The word "regulation" does not occur in that Sub-section, but Sub-section (1) states that subject to the provisions of the Act an allowance may be granted to any person to whom Part II of the Act applies if he proves certain matters "in accordance with rules made under this part of the Act." The matters are then specified under three headings (a), (b) and (c), the first of these being:(a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner and has made application for an allowance in the prescribed manner.I am sure that my hon. Friend who always gives the phraseology of Clauses in Bills meticulous and microscopic examination will admit that it is the board which is to make rules with respect to any part of this Clause which is not qualified by the word "regulation."
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)
Perhaps I may intervene at this point and put my view. Section 37 which the hon. Member has quoted provides that the amount of any allowance to be granted under this Part of the Act to an applicant shall be determined by reference to his needs. Then if we turn to Sub-section (3) we find that the need of an applicant, that is to say the need with reference to which Subsection (2) lays down that the amount of the allowance is to be granted—shall be determined and his needs assessed in accordance with regulations made under this Part of this Act.I think it is quite clear that the regulations which are to be drafted under Subsection (3) constitute the only place where the board can deal with the matters referred to in Sub-section (2), namely, the number of the household who can come within the ambit of need for the purpose of assessing the amount of the allowance.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
But Sub-section (1) provides that subject to the provisions of 1691 the Act an allowance may be granted thereunder to any person to whom Part II applies if he proves certain things:in accordance with rules made under this Part of this Act.It is in accordance with "rules" and not "regulations." Then follow the matters which the applicant has to prove and among them we find:(c) that he is in need of an allowance.It is under rules he must prove that he is in need of an allowance and not under regulations.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Perhaps it will be convenient if I also state my view now on this other point which has been raised. The rules to be made under Sub-section (1) are merely procedure rules as to how proof is to be given, as to the filling up of application forms, as to what is sufficient evidence and so on. When we come to the question of what are the needs to be assessed and how they are to be assessed, that is entirely under the regulations.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I am much obliged to the Solicitor-General for having put the matter as I think very clearly, but when he first rose to speak I was on the point of getting up to confirm the Ruling already given by the Deputy-Chairman, and I merely draw the attention of hon. Members to that Ruling.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
On a point of Order. Reference has been made to Clause 37 but in Clause 38 there is I submit confirmation for the view which has been put forward from this side. Subsection (3) of that Clause states:Where an applicant for an allowance is dependent on or ordinarily supported by another member of the household who is also an applicant for an allowance, any determination granting an allowance to the first mentioned applicant may, subject to and in accordance with rules made in that behalf under this Part of this Act, determine that the allowance granted to him shall be issued wholly or in part to the second mentioned applicant.Thus, it will be seen rules have to be made dealing with all these things. That provision is very definite and, I submit, it is quite right to say that the rules will cover even the administration of the means test in many details.
§ The CHAIRMAN
What the hon. Gentleman has said does not alter my Ruling. 1692 The details referred to are not those with which we are dealing now.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
It was not my intention to try to broaden this discussion into a discussion of the means test and if your Ruling, Sir Dennis, and that of the Deputy-Chairman were intended to prevent the discussion from being broadened in that way, you are, I submit, putting on a restraint to which we have no desire to offer any resistance.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is mistaken. He is assuming that there was an idea in the minds of the Deputy-Chairman and myself which was never there at all. It is our business, not to consider that, but to consider what is covered by this particular Amendment. It is clear to my mind that under this Amendment nothing can be discussed which has to be dealt with by regulations, as referred to in Clause 37—regulations, as distinct from rules.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Unfortunately for the hon. Member, it is the duty of the Chairman to give Rulings, and I have done so in this case.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I was going to say, with respect to the statement of the Solicitor-General, that Sub-section (3) of Clause 37 can properly be regarded as providing for the making of regulations determining the amount, and I think I am entitled still to argue that the rules will decide the framework in which that amount is to be calculated.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It does not seem to me, despite what the Solicitor-General has said, that the language of the Bill is so clear on this question. In Clause 35, at the end of Sub-section (2), there arise very great difficulties affecting the relationship between public assistance authorities and the Unemployment Assistance Board as to what persons are properly to be chargeable to the board and what to the local authorities. The 1693 board will have power to lay down rules to determine how long a man shall be sick and still be chargeable to the board and not to the public assistance authority. That is a point of very considerable substance, because many public assistance authorities are afraid that if a man gets a short attack of influenza, for example, he will be immediately transferred to the local rates, whereas he is still, to all intents and purposes, a genuinely unemployed person and has not passed into the category of a sick person at all. A man therefore can be transferred to the local rates, and when he recovers he can be transferred back again to the Unemployment Assistance Board, in such a way as continually to shift from the board on to the local rates burdens that the board itself ought to carry. That involves the local authorities to a very large extent, and we shall have no opportunity of discussing it.
This power can be used administratively as a very powerful lever for the reduction of public assistance standards of benefit all over the country, because hon. Members who have had some experience of local government administration will know that there is great variation between the standards of relief granted in some areas and those granted in other parts of the country. Indeed, we are not yet in a position to know what will be the difference in the treatment meted out to a recipient of unemployment allowance and that meted out to a recipient of public assistance. If the local authority is more generous in its treatment of the poor than is the Unemployment Assistance Board, there will be a natural tendency on the part of men to get themselves certified as sick; and after men have been idle for from six months to a year—and they must be idle for that time before coming under Part II of the Bill at all—it will be pretty easy for large numbers of people to get themselves certified as sick.
What therefore is the period during which a man has to be sick before he is transferred to the local rates? If the standards of a local authority tare higher than the standard of the Unemployment Assistance Board, there will be a tendency for continual drifts to take place from the board on to the local rates. If that happens, the local authority will 1694 either have to carry the additional charge or to protect itself against that influx and reduce its own standard of treatment of the poor in order to make it less advantageous to go on the rates. The local authorities, therefore, are profoundly interested in the rules that are to be made here, because those rules affect most intimately the frontier lines between unemployment assistance and local authority assistance. Many of us are under the impression that before this Bill has been in operation many months such anarchy will exist in the administration of the Unemployment Assistance Board and the local authorities that an amending Bill will soon be necessary, to put it right.
Here is a very vital question, because the whole difficulty is that one has to attempt to visualise the Bill in practice. We do not know what the board is going to do, but we know that it will be actuated by a natural desire to protect its own revenues and funds. It will not carry more people than it can avoid carrying, and so it seems to me that these rules will have to be most meticulously examined, not only in order to protect the interests of the local authorities, but in order to prevent an administrative condition being established which might have the effect of lowering the standards of relief for the poor all over Great Britain. I think hon. Members will appreciate that that is a point of considerable substance.
If I may revert to Clause 37, while avoiding the more contentious point made earlier, but which I still hold in reserve, because I do not agree that it is cleared up, the Clause states:(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act an allowance may be granted thereunder to any person to whom this Part of this Act applies, if he proves in accordance with rules made under this Part of this Act—I want to know what that reference to registration "for employment in the prescribed manner" means. Hon. Members on all sides spent a long time on Part I of the Bill in attempting to protect unemployed men against a recurrence of the conditions established under the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition. What guarantees have we that, with respect 1695 to these 1,000,000 men under Part II, the board will not lay down conditions for seeking employment that will give rise to all the viciousness of the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition? I do not find in the Bill any regulations which make reference to this, and in the absence of regulations, the assumption is that rules apply.
- (a) that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner and has made application for an allowance in the prescribed manner."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the exact words here. The rules under Sub-section (1) of Clause 51, which is the point that we have reached, are:rules for carrying this Part of this Act into effect and in particular…with respect to all matters with respect to which rules are specifically required or authorised by this Act.
§ Mr. BEVAN
But the words "this Part of this Act" are the governing condition, and I would assume that where it is not laid down that powers are to be obtained by regulation, the only other way in which powers can be obtained is by rule or by administrative act. I would assume that so important a matter as determining whether an applicant is really idle and unable to find employment would be made the subject-matter of rule and not of regulation. I would submit consequently—and I think I am entitled to argue here a point of the gravest possible substance—that hon. Members were perfectly prepared to spend all the time of this Committee for a whole evening and to make the Minister bring in a manuscript Amendment to protect the recipients of unemployment insurance benefit from being tyrannised by the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition, but that they do not reassert the same condition with regard to these 1,000,000 men under Part II.
I would ask hon. Members on all sides not to be hypocritical. When we had a Bill before us that we could amend Clause by Clause, we were able to bring hon. Members face to face with all that is involved in not-genuinely-seeking-work, but because under Part II of the Bill you convey the same power in general language, because the powers are not defined, because you can hide from it, because you can conceal yourselves under the Unemployment Assistance Board, because we cannot bring you face to face with it on the Floor of the House, you 1696 pass through these powers in a most frivolous way and hand these 1,000,000 poor helpless creatures over to an Unemployment Assistance Board which must satisfy itself, whose duty it is to satisfy itself, that an applicant for allowance is genuinely a person who cannot find work; and in order to satisfy itself that he is such a person, it must impose upon him all the conditions that we objected to under the not-genuinely-seeking-work provision. I, therefore, submit that we are entitled to argue on this Amendment that the Committee should demand that rules of that kind, dealing with men's means of finding employment, should be brought before this House for consideration in order that Members might be protected from the circumstances that I have described. I have said more than once during the Committee stage that this Bill is going to dig the grave of this Government.
§ Mr. BEVAN
It has dug the grave of many councillors in the country, and it will dig the grave of the Government as well. We have attempted in the Committee stage on Part I of the Bill to protect the Government, in spite of themselves, against their own mistakes. We shall have no chance of protecting the board. We have been able to protect the Government from their follies in Part I because they were clear. We were able to protect the Minister of Labour and the Solicitor-General who were uncertain about the meaning of the Clause to which they had to propose a manuscript Amendment, but the Government are depriving the competent House of Commons—more competent in this matter than in any other subject that can be brought before it—of the opportunity of protecting them from their blunders. We can do it in Part I, but we cannot do it under Part II, because the powers are general and ambiguous, and are not brought before us in the proper way.
I do not intend to labour that point because, if I did so, I would merely have to repeat the arguments which were used with regard to the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition. If hon. Members will call to mind the circumstances existing in the Employment Exchanges of this land between 1927 and 1930, they will have some idea of what might happen in 1697 regard to the 1,000,000 men under Part II of this scheme. Last Thursday we were discussing in a well-filled House the conditions existing in the distressed areas of Great Britain. Everybody was moved to sympathy by the speeches which were made and by the descriptions of the conditions that prevail. The Government are giving the board power, and we cannot in an way control it. They are giving the board the power that the Employment Exchanges have had for six years, to drive and torment people in the mining and textile villages to look for employers who are not there. I warn the Committee that if it parts with these powers in this way, they may try to forget it now, but their constituents will make them remember it when the election comes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I want to ask the hon. Member to help me here, because I am not quite clear about it. He said he was not going to labour the point further. I have to deal with the question whether I can allow anyone else to answer it, and in order that I may decide that, I must ask the hon. Member to show me, if he can, in Part II of this Bill any reference to the method of deciding whether a man is registered for employment in the prescribed manner. My impression at the moment is that the prescribed manner comes in earlier legislation, and is not dealt with in this Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I want the hon. Member to show me where it is prescribed in Part II. I do not think he can do so.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must rule against the hon. Member. If it is not prescribed in this Part of the Bill, it is not a matter that will be affected by these rules.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I ask the Minister to help me. Will it not be the obligation of the Unemployment Assistance Board, through its officers, to determine whether a man is, in fact, unable to obtain employment? Is it not laid down that he must be an able-bodied person unable to 1698 obtain employment before he can be an applicant for an allowance?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to assist the hon. Member, but I do not want assistance.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It has been clearly laid down by the Solicitor-General that rules are to be made. Those rules may not cover the actual conditions in regard to not-genuinely-seeking work, but they may cover the actual issue of forms and questions by officials with regard to a man's need and the desirability of his receiving an allowance. The point is that while the not-genuinely-seeking work condition may not arise, the applicant may receive a form asking him certain questions. The rules govern the questions that will be asked, and must therefore govern the following procedure which will determine whether the applicant should have an allowance or not. The point I tried to make in my speech was that while I admit that your Ruling is correct, these preliminaries and the rules governing them are tremendously important, and, by implication, they govern all the things that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) is raising.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that, technically, the hon. Gentleman's point seems to be right, but I am afraid it will not allow the discussion to be widened so that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale can be answered, because it is clear that the more substantial questions of principle are to be dealt with under regulations, which are distinct from rules. Therefore, the argument as to what are to be the rules should be a very limited one indeed.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Quite right, but we are at the moment making the Statute. If regulations are not referred to, and if the statutory obligations are not imposed directly, I am entitled to assume that the power will be exercised by rule. Subsection (3) of Clause 35 makes that clear:Any question whether a person is or is not a person to whom this Part of this Act applies shall be decided by officers of the board…Then it deals with the right of appeal. It imposes a duty upon the officer of the board who will be governed by rules sent to him from the board itself, because the officer must act under instructions and rules. The board will send to its officers rules under which they have to decide whether a man becomes a legitimate applicant for an allowance. If one of the conditions is that he is capable of and available for work, and that he is registered for employment in the prescribed manner—and the prescribed manner is not the manner laid down in Part I, but the manner laid down by the board—I am entitled to argue that under a combination of power conferred in that way the Unemployment Assistance Board can compel an applicant for an allowance to go through the treadmill of the not-genuinely-seeking-work condition.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has spent a considerable time trying to convince me that my Ruling is wrong. He has failed to do so, and I must ask him to follow my Ruling now.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I had left the point, and I wanted to pass to another when you intervened. I would only urge hon. Members to store this up in their memories. I want to go on to the question of training centres because here we have a point which is of the greatest possible substance. There was an argument in Committee, in which the Solicitor-General took part, as to whether the schemes of work had to be submitted to the House or whether the board had the right to make the detailed regulations. Clause 38 (2) says:In order that an applicant for an allowance may be given an opportunity of becoming fit for entry into or return to regular employment, any such determination 1700 may, subject to and in accordance with rules made in that behalf under this Part of this Act, grant an allowance for the maintenance of the applicant….It goes on to discuss the conditions of training. There has been a great deal of discussion as to whether the board ought to have the power to send men to training camps without any sanction from the men or the specific permission of this House. That Clause deals specifically with the maintenance of the applicant's dependants when the applicant is at the camp. The applicant, indeed, can be treated in any manner that the board wishes as laid down by rules. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Under this Clause we are giving power to the Unemployment Assistance Board to make, by rule, payments to the dependants of an applicant who may be sent to a training centre in any such manner as the rules may prescribe. Indeed, later on it lays down that rules are to be made by the board to determine who is to be sent to the training camps. Under Clause 39 (1):No application for an allowance shall be dealt with under this section unless, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, and, in particular, to the question whether the applicant has failed to avail himself of opportunities of employment or training.…The Ruling you gave just now, Sir Dennis, was to the effect that you could not see in any part of the Bill where the Unemployment Assistance Board could lay down the conditions under which a man had to claim an allowance.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Here we have it mentioned again specifically. It states specifically that the board can decide by rule whether the applicant has failed to avail himself of opportunities of employment or training. If an applicant refuses to permit himself to be trained—and the conditions of training are to be determined by rule, not by regulation—he can be deprived of an allowance. He can be made a case of special difficulty by rule and not by regulation. I know that in the consideration of Part II it is very difficult to get across to Members of the Committee what may be involved under these powers, but hon. Members ought to consider whether it should be possible for a board, uncontrolled and unrestricted, to decide the circumstances in which a 1701 British subject is to lose control over his own body, over the disposal of his own person. That is what is involved here. He has no recourse to an appeal, not even the right of having the conditions discussed by Parliament beforehand, not even the right to know what the law is.
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I call the hon. Member's attention to the Sub-section to which he refers. He says that there is no appeal. If he reads the last words of Clause 39, Sub-section (1), he will find it stated there that these matters are to be determined by the officer of the Unemployment Assistance Board or, on appeal, by the appeal tribunal. What I want to call the hon. Member's attention to is that, as far as I can see from a very careful study of the Bill, these rules apply only to matters of procedure, and there is no question of principle whatever which is affected by, or could be affected by, these rules.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I have always tried to treat the Chair with the very greatest respect, but I would like to point out that the line which you are now taking, Sir Dennis, is a line which, I should say, with the very greatest respect, should properly come from the defenders of the Bill, and should not emanate from the Chair.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I cannot allow the hon. Member to take up that position. It is the business of the occupant of the Chair to conduct the Debate according to the best of his ability, and these are matters to be decided by the Chair—not by the Government Bench, and certainly not by any other hon. Member.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It has come to this, that the hon. Member is insisting on arguing against my Ruling. I am afraid I must warn him, I think this is the third time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, I think this is the third time—and I must ask him to accept my Ruling.
§ Mr. BEVAN
But I am entitled to ask you under what Clause you are making this Ruling, because I have referred you specifically to Clause 39, and its heading, "Method of dealing with cases of special difficulty." Although it is perfectly true that a man who is put into that category has the right of appeal, I am pointing out that he only has a right of appeal under rules made by the Board. That is my case. The appeal has nothing to do with the case I am making. The case I am making is that the question of how a man is to he made into a case of special difficulty will be determined by rule.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Unless the hon. Member will follow my Ruling, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. LAWSON
One would naturally desire to respect your Ruling, Sir Dennis, but I would point out that the wording ismay make rules for carrying this part of this Act into effect.That is very general, and while you, naturally, have to guide the Debate, I think it is due to the Committee that we should have an interpretation from the Minister as to just how far that carries us, because, as I have said, that is a very general power.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is quite right, it is very general, but, however general it is, it is quite certain that these rules cannot decide matters which are decided by the Bill by some other means, namely, by an express provision in the Bill itself, or by means of regulations, or some other method other than rules, as provided for by the Bill.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
May I put this point? We are now dealing with rules that may be made under Clauses 37 to 42, under which the Unemployment Assistance Board are given general powers, and under this particular Clause, we are now discussing there are rules and regulations, and therefore I should have thought that in submitting, as we do, that these should be approved by Parliament instead of being laid before Parliament, it would be competent for hon. Members to try to show the implications of the powers to be given under the earlier Clauses of the Bill.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that is inconsistent with the Ruling I have given.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must inform the hon. Member that it is my opinion which the Committee have to follow, and not the Minister's. I have already tried, to the best of my ability, to show that while these rules apply, no doubt, so far as procedure is concerned, to everything in this part of the Bill, my point is that they do not refer to those matters of principle which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) ventured on one or two occasions to discuss—matters of principle which are settled otherwise than by these rules, it may be by regulations or it may be, in other cases, by express statutory enactments in earlier legislation referred to and incorporated in this Bill. That is the whole extent of my Ruling, and I must adhere to it.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I was about to bring my remarks to a close, because I do not wish to prevent the Treasury Bench from fulfilling their obligation to reply. We on this side of the Committee shall reserve the right of examining most meticulously what they say the rules cover, because procedure under Part II is a very vital part of the Bill, seeing that many of the powers conferred upon the Unemployment Assistance Board are powers to regulate procedure and that these rules do, in fact, confer upon the board very wide powers. I sit down to give the Solicitor-General or the Minister the opportunity of pointing out to us the distinction between rules and regulations—but not rules and regulations in the abstract: we know the distinction in the abstract, and we want the distinction in relation to specific parts of this Bill.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I shall not intervene for very long between the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) and the answer he desires and deserves. I regret that his speech was produced in so many fragments that it lost something of that forcefulness which we, expect from him. He will also, perhaps, allow me to suggest that in his enthusiasm he saw very much more danger and peril in this Clause than really exist.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The Clause under discussion. The Amendment will not make 1704 an appreciable difference in any vital matter. I agree with him entirely that were there any power to reimpose a not-genuinely-seeking-work test, the Bill as it stands would be most unsatisfactory, but I am sure the Solicitor-General will assert that there is no power for the Unemployment Assistance Board to make rules which would have any such effect. I wish to remind the Committee of the comedy of the position in which we find ourselves. Those who have sufficiently long political memories will recollect that Socialism is identified—or was in pre-War days—with a very considerable increase in bureaucratic control. It was, indeed, the normal charge against a Socialist that he would impose on the country an undue loss of liberty.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On a point of Order. We have now got a dissertation on the bureaucratic methods of Socialism. Should we be in order on this Amendment to say in reply that Socialism represents nothing of the sort? The hon. Member may have joined the Socialist party because of those things. We know what he has done since.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think the reference was out of order, and a reply equally short would not be out of order. Any longer argument on the subject or any longer reply would be out of order.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The whole point of the Amendment is that excessive power is vested in a bureaucratic authority. The Amendment desires to reserve more power to the House of Commons. That is the precise issue with which I wish to deal for a few minutes. In old days it was customary among Socialists to welcome increased bureaucratic authority, and the paradoxical situation now is that hon. Members opposite are trying to impose upon the House of Commons such a detailed control of particulars as would mean the downfall of this House as an efficient assembly. It is perfectly clear in these days that we are hopelessly overburdened with detail. We have before us a Session of great congestion, and even with time tables we shall find that we cannot adequately discuss the matters which will come before us. We shall be very lucky if we get 80 per cent. of the business completed. The Opposition 1705 desire that the rules on relatively minor points should be brought before this House for approval.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Gentleman has conducted his argument so far entirely in the abstract. Would he be good enough to point out to us to which Clause and under what powers these rules apply?
§ Mr. DENMAN
I am speaking in general terms. The rules are, in the main, procedure rules. I agree that in certain conditions they are of greater importance than that, but I was coming to a rather different point. We have seen a steady encroachment of bureaucratic authority in the making of rules which have legislative effect. That we all know, and that, I believe, to be necessary. This is one more example of that process. I deplore it in some measure, but there seems no escape from it unless we adopt some new system of devolution which it would be out of place at this moment to attempt to discuss. As long as we have our current machinery, it seems that we shall be compelled in Act after Act to give Ministers these powers to make or confirm rules and regulations, and on those rules we shall less and less have that amount of debate which I believe to be necessary. The evil alternatives that we have to face are such that I submit that the time ought to be brought close at hand when we shall be able by some devolution system to secure both ends, and a proper ultimate control in this House in order to avoid this increase of bureaucratic control over matters which are, in many respects, of interest to masses of the people.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS
May I ask the Minister one or two questions? Sub-section (1) says:The Unemployment Assistance Board may make rules for carrying this Part of this Act into effect and in particular (without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision) with respect to all matters with respect to which rules are specifically required or authorised by this Act to he made under this Part of this Act (except rules authorised to be made under the last foregoing section), but no rules made by the board shall have effect until confirmed by the Minister, and any such rules shall, when confirmed, be laid before Parliament.Would the Minister explain exactly what is the difference between rules and 1706 regulations? Clause 38 (3) contains these words:Where an applicant for an allowance is dependent on or ordinarily supported by another member of the household who is also an applicant for an allowance, any determination granting an allowance to the first mentioned applicant may, subject to and in accordance with rules made in that behalf under this Part of this Act, determine that the allowance granted to him shall be issued wholly or in part to the second mentioned applicant.There it seems to concern a regulation instead of a rule. I would like the Solicitor-General to explain where lies the difference between a regulation and a rule. There is another point about which I would like to ask while I am on my feet, and that is whether rules as laid down in Clause 51 (1) are amendable by the Committee? It states quite clearly in that Sub-section that the rules shall not be effective until they are confirmed by Parliament. Has a Minister power to alter the rules, or has he merely to accept them as a whole and, when they are confirmed, lay them before Parliament? I should also like to ask whether the rules that are to be laid down by the board are to control regulations? If they are general rules controlling all the regulations, it is rather important that this House should have some say in the making of the rules.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I rise only to answer in a very few words the points which have been made in the speech of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). I am afraid that he did not console me at all. He told us that not only had we to submit to bureaucratic control under this Clause, but that this is the beginning of a succession of Measures under which this House is to be deprived of its control. I quite agree with the main difficulties which he has put before us in regard to the work of Parliament, and I cannot, of course, follow, any more than he could, his suggestion about devolution. We have to take the present Constitution as we find it. If we are to devolve work away from Parliament we have to consider very carefully what kind of work we devolve. This kind of work, dealing with matters of intimate concern in the lives of the people is not work which ought to be taken away, because' that would be shirking our difficulties.
1707 The hon. Member made what seemed to me a gratuitous assumption in regard to matters of minor importance. Why should he assume that matters which we are to debate, though they be matters of procedure, are matters of minor importance? These matters are not unlike those concerned with the administration of justice in the Law Courts. They affect people's lives just as the Law Courts may affect their liberties. Matters of procedure with regard to justice may be of the most enormous importance. They may amount, if they are done wrong, to a denial of justice, and this House should keep a very tight hold over matters of that kind. If the rules are to concern minor matters, as they may in some cases, I cannot see that the Amendment is likely to add in any way to the congestion of the time of Parliament. When a matter of minor importance, which has already been dealt with by the board and has been confirmed by the Minister comes for approval before this House, the House would confirm it without any long Debate, and there would not be any difficulty about it. We have to guard against matters of great importance not being brought before this House and our having no power to deal with them. I would much rather take the risk of a little further congestion of the time of the House than I would take the corresponding but far greater risk of matters of the gravest moment in the lives of the people being removed from our effective control.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. OSWALD LEWIS
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) did not seem to make clear to the Committee what the effect of the Amendment would be. As I understand the Bill, it provides that certain rules shall be laid before Parliament; the Amendment seeks to provide that those rules shall be approved by Parliament. Both hon. Members seemed to suggest that, if the Amendment were carried, opportunity would be afforded to the House to amend those rules from time to time. I understand that not to be the position. If the Amendment were carried, the only difference would be that further opportunity for Debate would be provided. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) that if, 1708 every time some regulation on procedure required to be changed or laid down, we were to have a Debate, it would lead to the most intolerable waste of time.
The proper method in dealing with a complicated matter of that kind is for the House to do what it has been endeavouring to do, to lay down Clause by Clause the principles that shall be followed. If any hon. Member objects to any of those principles, the time to raise that objection is when the Clause is under discussion. The principles having been decided, I cannot see that any case is made out for bringing before this House on other occasions all the detailed matters of procedure which are bound constantly to arise as the Bill comes into operation. I cannot join with the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) in his delightful assumption that when those matters come up the House will quickly pass them, with only a short discussion. I very much hope that the Solicitor-General will resist the Amendment, and we shall support him.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Let me start with what is common ground. It is common ground that Part II deals with a very important subject matter and that the people who are to be dealt with under Part II deserve the consideration and the sympathy of this House, certainly as much, and I should say more than, those to whom the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) referred as "more fortunate sections of the community." That is the common ground. No one disputes the importance of the subject matter with one aspect of which this Amendment deals. I will make a general observation which, I hope, will be germane to what the Committee have to consider. There are two courses of attack attractive to those who sit upon the opposite benches. One is the attack which we have heard in connection with the Bill, that this House does not have enough time properly to discuss matters with which it should deal. There is another attack which we heard this afternoon when it was proposed to delegate to some outside body certain matters of detail. There is the attack which we have heard that the House should be jealous of its privileges, and should not give up its right over detail in matters of such importance. Those arguments are to some extent inconsistent. If we are to have 1709 adequate time to discuss really important matters of principle, we must, as was recommended by the Committee on Ministers' Powers last year, delegate duties which would otherwise be performed wholly or partly by this House.
§ Mr. D. FOOT
Did not that Committee ask that there should be the most stringent safeguards against a misuse of the powers that were delegated?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The safeguards to which that Committee attached most importance do, as I shall show in a minute, apply to the rules made under this Bill. That is a point which has not been made in the course of the discussion. The rules are matters which we think should be delegated under the provisions made by the Bill, subject to the safeguards which the Bill provides. The first and most important safeguard is that these rules will come under the Rules Publication Act, 1893, which applies to rules made by Government Departments and other such bodies and will apply to the rules made by the Unemployment Assistance Board. Under that Act there is, first of all, 40 days' notice in the "London Gazette" that there is a proposal either to make or to amend rules; during that period of 40 days any public body may obtain copies of the draft rules on payment of a certain price, and any representations made by a public body which has locus standi in the matter have to be considered by the rule-making body, as of course they would be in all cases.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, but, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, he might consider this as well. What happens to the rules in the meantime, if there is an emergency and the Rules Committee is not in operation?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. He is quite right. If you have an emergency there is a power. In the ordinary case nothing happens until the end of 40 days, but if there is an emergency there is a power—of which, I think, nobody would dispute the reasonableness—to make an emergency rule which can come into force at once, but which requires confirmation at the end, I think, of the same period of 40 days just as if it were an original rule. One starts, therefore, with the first safeguard, one of great importance, that 1710 notice will have to be given of any rules proposed under this Bill; there will be the 40 days during which people can find out what they are, and representations can be made by public bodies or Members of Parliament to the Minister, and by all the other formal and informal ways in which people can criticise and bring points forward in matters of this kind.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Does that provision in the old Act override the quite express words in the Clause we are now considering, that no rules made by the board shall have effect until they are confirmed by the Minister?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
That is not the Government's intention, and I am instructed that it is not so. There is no doubt at all that rules to be made under this Act will be subject to the safeguards and the provisions of the Rules Publication Act, 1893. If there is any doubt, I will certainly have it looked into, but, as I understand it, the board will be for this purpose in the same position as any other rule-making body.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the general construction of that Act. It starts off:1.—(1) At least 40 days before making any statutory rules to which this section applies…The question is whether a rule is or is not a statutory rule to which this Clause applies when it is made by a Minister, or by a body such as the Rules Committee, or some other body. If there is any doubt, I will certainly have it attended to, but the Committee can rest assured that that is the intention, and if it has not been effected it will be effected: that rules made by this board shall be subject to the safeguard of the Rules Publication Act.
Another safeguard to which the Committee will, I think, attach equal, and, perhaps, even greater importance, is that the rules as proposed by the board have to be approved and confirmed by the Minister. The Minister has his ordinary responsibility to this House. We are not handing over to some irresponsible junta the power of making rules upon which no 1711 Minister of the Crown can be questioned or criticised in this House. These rules will come for 40 days under the bold and challenging eye of the hon. Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow, who will have during that time the right to make any criticisms that can be made of Ministers—which are many in this House—and say, "You have provisionally approved or confirmed rules which you should not have done." We feel that these are two very important safeguards, the safeguard as to time, and the safeguard by which the representation of any public body must be considered by a Minister responsible to this House when he is making up his mind on the action to be taken with regard to the rules.
We feel that this is a proper matter in which the framing and the drawing up of rules should be done by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment referred very relevantly to Section 34, and read the words which stated for what this board is set up and what it has to do:(2) The functions of the board shall be the assistance of persons to whom this Part of this Act applies who are in need of work and the promotion of their welfare…The words are familiar. That is the board, and that is what this House will set it up to do. Hon. Members will approach the issue raised by this Amendment in the wrong spirit if they believe with the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) that the board may consist of men who have no experience and no sympathy; or with the hon. Member for Gorbals, that a board set up for those duties may make rules which will take away a man's real rights. I suggest to the Committee that that is not the right frame of mind or the right point of view from which to approach the power which this Bill confers on the board in giving it the duty of making rules in the matters in which rules fall to be made under the Bill as it now stands.
I was asked a question as to the difference between the rules and the regulations under this Bill. It is, I think, a matter of terminology. I will start with the regulations dealt with by Sections 2, 3 and 4—which it is out of order to discuss, according to your ruling on this Amendment, Sir Dennis, but which I desire to mention merely for the purpose of answering the question. 1712 What are called regulations are only the regulations which will be made under Clause 37 (3) as to needs. They are called "regulations" for this reason, and this reason only: that there is a more formal procedure before they can come into operation, namely, that they have to be affirmatively approved by Resolution instead of merely being laid before Parliament. The other matters, which are procedural or administrative matters, fall to be dealt with by rules. I do not think that the Committee would desire me to refer to all the places in this Act where rules are mentioned. Reference has been made to one or two, and I suggest to the Committee that these are very proper matters to be dealt with in the delegative way proposed by the Bill.
There is, for instance, the period of occasional sickness or incapacity which may take a man out of Part II. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a detail."] An hon. Gentleman says that this is a detail, but it is no argument against this treatment of such matters to say that they are important. The question which the Committee has to decide is whether we have proved, not that these are unimportant matters, but that they are matters proper to be dealt with by the board set up by the House, subject to these safeguards. You may say, and in a sense say very truly, that everything in this part of the Bill is important. You may say, for example, that the administration of justice is important. But there are many matters connected with the administration of justice which this House has placed outside its direct administrative control. As all hon. Members know, the Rules framed by the Rules Committee, are laid before the House, do not require an affirmative Resolution and cannot be amended.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It was suggested by the hon. Member for Gorbals, and at least one other speaker, that these were matters of vital importance to the liberty of the subject and the rights of the people; but matters involving administrative and procedural detail have been put by this House in the hands of a body which this House has not power to control.
Another question concerns the provision with regard to Rules in Clause 37 (1). When the point of Order was made I said 1713 —and I will repeat it with a little more emphasis now—that if the Committee will read that Clause, it will be quite clear that the Rules under Sub-section (1) deal only with the method of proof. If I may respectfully associate myself with what you, Sir Dennis, laid down as a point of Order, but put it not as a point of Order but as the plain effect of what the words mean—the intention of this part of the Act—there is no kind of possibility of anything connected with or related to a test of genuinely-seeking-work being dealt with in the Rules. They are to decide the method of proof either in regard to (a) the man being registered in employment in a prescribed manner, or (b) that hehas no work or only such part-time or intermittent work as not to enable him to earn sufficient for his needs.There is, in my submission, no possible way in which the words could be stretched to mean what is suggested by the hon. Member. As you, Sir, ruled that it was out of order, I will merely pass on to deal with the intentions of the Government in this matter.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman be prepared to extend his statement to a general one that under Part II of this Bill the board cannot, by rule, establish a set of circumstances corresponding to the not-genuinely-seeking-work?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am certainly not going to make any general statement. We are going through the Bill Clause by Clause, and, if the hon. Member thinks he can find anywhere in it anything which would allow that to be done by rule, no doubt he will do so, as he has the opportunity. He has had a reasonable time, and apparently cannot find anything of the kind, and I cannot find anything of the kind either. I was asked whether the rules can be altered by the Minister. I think I am right in saying that there is no express provision as to that, but I feel that in this matter the board and the Minister will work in close co-operation, and that there will not be the slightest difficulty between the one and the other. Having, I think, disposed of the specific questions which were put to me, perhaps I may summarise by saying that we feel that the actual framing of these rules is properly left, as it is by the Bill, in the hands of the board, and that the safeguards for publicity, Parliamentary 1714 criticism, and the proper bringing forward in the House of Commons of any grievances which hon. Members may have with regard to the rules, are completely adequate, and, therefore, we ask the Committee to accept the Clause in this form.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
One finds it very difficult to follow the leadership that there is in this Committee on the Bill. Sitting on this side of the Committee, we see a kaleidoscope. We have had the Prime Minister, we have had the Lord President of the Council, we have had the Minister of Labour, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; to-day we have had the Financial Secretary to the Treasury; and now we have, I think for the second time, the Solicitor-General. We welcome them all into our midst, but it is a little unfortunate that there is no general officer commanding this Bill. The Bill has been sectionalised. If the Government can make a question primarily a financial question, they bring down the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. If they can turn an Amendment of substance into a legal question, the Solicitor-General comes. Although right hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House are working in shifts, bringing in their relays of Ministers from time to time, spreading the burden, the fact is that this is a very human Bill, and we are dealing now with the rules and regulations which are to be made under the auspices of a new Star Chamber, whose actions, whose rules, regulations and officers will govern the day-to-day life of masses of the people of this country.
The point under discussion now is as to rules to be made with regard to detailed points of procedure—what the Solicitor-General called matters of detail, but what in a later part of his speech he called important matters. These things are very real; they are going to affect, it may be, within the next 12 months, 1,000,000 unemployed persons and their families—perhaps 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 people; and it is not much use the Solicitor-General bringing forward a constitutional argument about not having had sufficient time, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, about the necessity for delegating matters of detail. That is purely abstract. The Bill will deal with, 1715 perhaps, a quarter of the population; it will deal with people who are out of work through no fault of their own; it will affect their wives and their families; and those of us who sit on this side of the Committee are not assisted by arguments on the constitutional point which was put by the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), about delegating powers.
I have no objection whatever to the House of Commons settling principles and Ministers applying principles, but I do object to the House of Commons accepting a vacuum and letting the Minister do anything he likes with it, which is the position under the Bill. There is all the difference in the world between the term "laid before Parliament" and the term "approved by Parliament." However bad the construction of the House of Commons may be, approval by Parliament means something definite and specific. "Laid before Parliament" means, perhaps, a discussion which takes place, if it ever does take place, after eleven o'clock, or after midnight, and there is no definite approval by the House of Commons of the rules that have been made. In five Clauses, 37 to 42, are laid down the powers which are to be exercised by the Unemployment Assistance Board. In Clause 51, powers are given to the board to apply the terms and conditions under which, in accordance with Clauses 37 to 42, assistance is to be given to people who are unemployed but are outside the terms of statutory unemployment insurance benefit.
We ought to know from the Government what kind of rules are going to be made. We ought to know, seeing that we are dealing with people who are in their present position through no fault of their own, exactly how the Government propose to deal with them. They might have set out a standard, a scale of relief; they might have set out the principles on which they are going to work. It was not much use the Solicitor-General reading the words of Clause 34, because those words really mean nothing. Had the Government set out the principles on which they were going to act, we on this side of the Committee might, accepting the principles, have agreed that Ministers might apply them; but what we are being asked to do now is really 1716 to buy a pig in a poke—we are being asked to hand over, without any kind of Parliamentary control, the interests of very large numbers of people. We are not being asked to permit the Government to apply principles in detail; we are being asked to give to the Government a blank cheque to deal just as they like with the unemployed who are outside unemployment insurance; and, for my part, I am not prepared to accept the suggestion that the Government will do these things reasonably.
Whenever any question of finance has been raised, it has not been left to the human figure of the Minister of Labour; they have sent down the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are dealing to-day with a very vital point in the Bill, but it is not the Minister of Labour, whose human interests we know are real, who replies; they send down the Solicitor-General to argue about the difference between rules and regulations. Indeed, it looks to me as though the Minister is being pressed a little aside, and that considerations other than human considerations are prevailing. On the Second Reading of the Bill the Minister of Labour spoke very sincerely about his interest in the unemployed. I accept that. I know that, as the Minister of the Crown charged with that problem, it is a question that must be in the forefront of his mind. But, unfortunately, after the very human speech which he made on the Second Reading, he has been pushed into the background, and all kinds of legal and financial quibbles are allowed to take place.
Our reason for pressing this Amendment is that we desire to face the Government with what, to us, is the vital principle of the Bill: Is the House of Commons to determine the broad general conditions on which the poor, unemployed persons outside insurance are to receive assistance, or are those conditions to be left to the uncontrolled discretion of a Member of the Government? While we do not wish to hamper the House with details as to regulations we prefer that the House should make itself responsible for the fortunes of the unemployed, rather than that they should be left to la Bill, however good it may be, which, once on the Statute Book, will put a body of unrepresentative and uncontrolled persons in supreme control over the lives of the 1717 unemployed; and I hope that numbers of Members of the Committee will be prepared to support us.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not want, Sir Dennis, to give you concern by clausing you to think that I am going to reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) on the subject of Socialism. I know that his relations with the Prime Minister are most cordial, and that he can always tell us how Socialism stands. Everyone knows that they are deep thinkers—so deep that we very seldom see the results of their thinking. But I will leave them there; I am not going to follow the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) raised a question which, whether the Solicitor-General likes it or not, is a question of some substance, namely, the question of the not-genuinely-seeking-work provision, and whether that can be brought in again by the making of these Rules. I submit that the most important point of all is as to the procedure. If I may be allowed to refer to Part I of the Bill, I would point out that under Part I persons have a certain procedure to go through, and therefore, to that extent they are in a similar position to those who come under Part II; but the difference between Part I and Part II is that generally speaking the procedure under Part I will be laid down by the Act, but the procedure under Part II will not be laid down by the Act. In making a claim for benefit under Part II a person has to prove, among other things, that he is a deserving person to get benefit. The procedure can determine the type of proof that he can adduce. It can practically take away his rights, because it can so circumscribe him that it will be impossible for him to use his elementary right of proof.
The analogy of the law courts is not a good one. In a public court he can show that he has not got the rules of procedure governing him in his power. Here it is different. He goes before a small private body where he cannot contest the rules of procedure. He can say before a could that he has not got his rights under the rules of procedure. Under this Bill he cannot. Under law court procedure his rights are safeguarded. Under this Bill he has nothing. He can be jerrymandered out of his rights in a hundred 1718 and one ways. I look upon the rules of procedure in Unemployment Insurance as being much more important than the actual regulations. Day to day practice in the courts gives more knowledge of what is important and what is unimportant than any amount of theorising. Under this Bill the importance of procedure cannot be over-rated. It will determine how the interview between the official and the man is to take place, the kind of questions to be put and whether the man is to be given a summary of the interview that took place. It is important to know the body determining the procedure and making the rules.
It might make for public confidence if we knew the type of board that we are going to deal with. You may elect a board of capable people who will carry confidence but, on the other hand, you may have a board which this House would not like to trust with very much power, and I am not prepared to hand over to an unknown board the making of procedure rules. We are going to discuss a Betting Bill that may occupy weeks of time. If we were wise, we should devote time to the discussion of these procedure rules rather than to betting. These are the things that people are thinking about. They are matters that are moving men and women, and the House of Commons, if it is wise, will devote its time to things that are moving the mass of the people, and this is one of them.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
This Amendment raises a question of vital importance. There is a vast feeling of uneasiness outside the House, not only as to what is contained in the Bill but as to the effects of the procedure under it. The great mass of our people have confidence in this House to a far greater extent than in any outside body. If there ever was a case in which the rules should be approved by this House, it is this. It is sometimes suggested that, if the rules are laid before Parliament, the man in the street, who does not understand procedure here, may look upon them as having received the approval of Parliament. In an important Bill like this the House should be jealous of its right to amend these rules and to bring them into conformity with the general feeling in the House. I believe there is in all 1719 quarters a desire to better the condition of the unemployed. A tremendous amount of sympathy has been evoked, but it appears to me that, once the Bill is through, the Government are hoping that the responsibility will be borne by the Unemployment Assistance Board and that they will be able to say, "Thank goodness, we shall no longer be bothered with questions about unemployment benefit and transitional payment." They will be able to say that these matters are out of their control altogether. They will be thinking to themselves that they will no longer be called upon to answer awkward questions.
I am satisfied that, whatever is done eventually, you are not going to be rid of the problem of unemployment simply because of the Unemployment Assistance Board. If the Clause goes through as drafted, the unemployed man will feel that he is not to be treated as a human person at all, but simply as a number on a form, something immaterial, something with no substance and no shape. We cannot divorce the problem of unemployment from the human element. If the effect of the procedure and rules is in the long run that the unemployed man will be treated in a more inhuman fashion, there will be an agitation outside the House against the Bill and those responsible for it. We cannot be too careful in what we are doing in respect of this Clause. We are making a leap in the dark. Anyone who votes for the Clause as it stands will be committing his opinions and his sentiments to the unknown. He will know nothing at all about what is to be done.
It is all very well for the Solicitor-General to talk about safeguards. The safeguards are not sufficient for the unemployed man. We are told that these powers are only semi-delegated, but I am certain that they go far beyond that designation. The Unemployment Assistance Board will practically have the whole of the powers. Although the Minister may lay the rules before the House, I cannot see in what circumstances any alterations of the rules of procedure can be made. The whole of the proceduce under Part II of the Bill is to be governed by the rules made under Clause 51. I cannot emphasise too strongly the fact that under the method of procedure the whole framework of 1720 what is to be done for the unemployed under Part II of the Bill is to be settled in such a way that Members of the House of Commons will have no voice whatever. I want the Government to realise that the men who have been out of employment for a year or more and are likely to continue to be unemployed will come under Part II of the Bill, and we have no guarantee that they will be dealt with even in the way they have been dealt with up to now. Even now there have been complaints, many of which have been justified, but under this Clause and the method of procedure their position is likely to get considerably worse.
I hope, therefore, that those Members of the Committee who are as anxious as ourselves to show a sympathetic attitude towards the unfortunate unemployed will not treat this Amendment lightly. I trust that they will be prepared to go into the Lobby with us, because they will be asked what action they took on hehalf of the unemployed in their particular area in order to safeguard the interests of those men and to give them a square deal and an opportunity of putting their side of the case in the best possible way. I appeal to the Committee to support the Amendment.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. E. WILLIAMS
I have often endeavoured to ascertain what is at the back of the mind of the Government in bringing this Bill before the House of Commons at all, and I have concluded that the only specific reason, apart from depriving the unemployed of a substantial sum of money, is that they desire to disfranchise the persons who are in receipt of transitional payment. This Clause is really the mechanism of the Bill. There can be no doubt that by its procedure it will partially deprive a million people and their dependants of a certain amount of money of which they are in receipt. It is really the most important Clause in Part II if not in the whole of the Bill. We cannot be satisfied with the reply of the Solicitor-General. His argument was entirely in the abstract. He could not have possibly visualised the unemployed person in receipt of transitional payment, whose case is now investigated by the investigation officer, having his case brought before the board. That is really what we have to endeavour to do.
1721 It is impossible to discuss this thing adequately merely by talking in the abstract about certain Acts of Parliament which will govern the position, how the rules are to be made, how power is to be given, and how all this is to be made known. We know how these people are being treated to-day, that the public assistance committees will be deprived of their rights, and that in substitution we shall have a board which will deal with these people in accordance with certain rules and regulations. The procedure upon which they will meet the applications of these people is to be determined, and we say that, in accordance with this Amendment, Parliament should not divorce itself of certain rights it now possesses of caring for the interests of at least a million inhabitants of this country.
We have had no answer from the Minister, or from any person putting forward the claims of the Government, to the case presented by the Mover of the Amendment, and we have certainly had no reply to the statements which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). We have had much discussion particularly from the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) about Parliament and bureaucracy, and I certainly would not enter into any purely academic argument as to whether Socialism is autocratic or not. It would certainly be out of order and out of place in relation to this matter. We are faced in this Clause with the fact as to whether Parliamentary democracy is to function properly or not, and whether a million inhabitants of the country are to have any right of appeal to Parliament. Parliament should take into consideration this very important matter. These people will be deprived of any right of knowing what is contained in the rules of procedure. They are being deprived of public assistance committees, and they will have no democratic representations in their own district. In the one instance they will have no one to whom to appeal locally, and in the other instance they will be deprived of the aid of their elected representative in Parliament in regard to this matter. The Minister should give a further reply upon this point, as we are entitled to far better consideration than we have so far received.
1722 Parliament ought not to treat the matter lightly but to give adequate consideration to it. Far more interest ought to be shown by the supporters of the Government. I cannot understand their attitude. They no doubt realise that the most important problem confronting the country is that of unemployment, and I can imagine how they would like to wipe their hands of this problem entirely and to divorce Parliament from any discussion of it. They would like to hand over to a board of some kind the solution of a problem which Parliament ought really to solve. Therefore, I can perhaps understand the apathy of the supporters of the Government towards the matter. But they will have to face the electorate on this issue.
The last speaker was right when he said that anyone who is doing any electioneering for local government purposes will find that this is a matter of vital concern to the people. The people ask questions and want to know what is going to happen. You hear people say, "I have been idle for a long time. I have looked everywhere for employment. I have been all over the land and found no opportunity of employment at all. I can now appeal to the public assistance committee in order that my case may be properly reviewed under the investigation officer who has obtained all the particulars and has ascertained all the facts, but now it will not be possible to do anything on that account. The board will have to deal with my case. Am I to be deprived of an appeal and of the opportunity of even presenting my case to you as the elected Member of Parliament in order that you may voice my claims in the House of Commons?" This is what is being said and the sort of questions which we are being asked. It is not a party matter. They are being literally disfranchised.
The workpeople are put into three categories. There are those who are working, there are those who are unemployed and come under the insurance scheme with some credit in the fund upon which they can draw, and there are the unfortunate unemployed people who have been idle for years, as is the case in South Wales, and who are being literally disfranchised without any opportunity whatever of presenting their case to anyone. The board can do just what it likes with their case. They 1723 ought to have the most humane consideration, but they are likely to receive the most inhuman treatment. We beg of the Solicitor-General or of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, or even of the Minister himself to give more adequate consideration to the matter, and I trust that upon that consideration they will accept the Amendment as being the only proper means by which the unemployed in this country can obtain enfranchisement and fair play.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I accept what the Solicitor-General has said and believe that he put his case quite fairly. He did not burke the issue. He stated that the House of Commons were handing over some of their powers, and that some might look upon them as important and some might look upon them indifferently. I accept his statement. We regard it as very important that powers which ought to belong to Parliament should be given to a committee who will make rules which in turn will be submitted to the Minister of Labour. He will sanction them, and they will be put before this House, and we shall have no power to alter them. We have a strong objection to this proposal. On Thursday next I shall be addressing a meeting of unemployed people among whom will be a large number who have been out of work for a long period. Figures were given last week showing that 437,000 persons have been out of work for more than 12 months. Those people should be entitled to unemployment benefit. In the meeting which I am to address there will be a number of those people and they will want to know their position under Part II of this Bill. They will ask me as their representative what power I shall have in the matter if, later on, they do not get fair treatment from the Unemployment Assistance Board. Judging from the discussion to-night and the replies of the Government my answer will have to be, unless the, Committee pass our Amendment,
§ that when this Act becomes law the Members of the House of Commons will have no further jurisdiction over those 400,000 people, and other who will be added. We ask that these rules should be subject to the approval of the House of Commons. We should then have power to say what should be done. We must have some regard to the vast number of people who are looking to us for support. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) argued that many matters have to pass away from this House. If to-night we had to deal with the position of 1,000,000 subscribers to the War Loan and it was proposed to cut down the rates of interest, would the House agree to that matter being delegated to any body outside this House? Would they allow that 1,000,000 people to have their rights taken away in that way? Under the English law it has been a recognised principle that to those most in need the greater protection shall be given. We have always understood that the down and out should be protected, but to-night that is not to be the case, because the power that we have over their destiny is being taken away from us. It is a very serious matter. I do not disguise my position in regard to Part II. I have voted against any part of it being handed over to another body, and on this side of the House we have steadily taken that attitude. This Clause deals with that position more than any other Clause. The rules of procedure will mean the whole control of Part II being taken out of the hands of Parliament. In raising our protest against that intention we feel so deeply about it that we cannot miss an opportunity of making our voices heard and appealing to hon. Members not to allow the Clause to go through without accepting our Amendment and giving some protection for the million people who will come under Part II.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 239; Noes, 62.1725
|Division No. 179.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Blindell, James|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Borodale, Viscount|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bossom, A. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Boulton, W. W.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Braithwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Apsley, Lord||Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent. Dover)||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hornby, Frank||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Remer, John R.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Burnett, John George||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ruggles-Brlse, Colonel E. A.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Salt, Edward W.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Scone, Lord|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Selley, Harry B.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Law, Sir Alfred||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Leckle, J. A.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lees-Jones, John||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Lewis, Oswald||Smiles. Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Liddall, Walter S.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-ln-F.)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Crooks, J. Smedley||Llewellin, Major John J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Cross, R. H.||Loftus, Pierce C.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mabane, William||Spens, William Patrick|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Denville, Alfred||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Stevenson, James|
|Dickie, John P.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Doran, Edward||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nalrn)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Macqulsten, Frederick Alexander||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Maitland, Adam||Sugden, Sir Wilfrld Hart|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Ellis. Sir R. Geoffrey||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Martin, Thomas B.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Templeton, William P.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Meller, Sir Richard James||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Fielden, Edward Brooklehurst||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Fleming Edward Lascelles||Milne, Charles||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)||Todd. A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Morgan, Robert H.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Train, John|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Tree, Ronald|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Moss, Captain H. J.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Goff. Sir Park||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Munro, Patrick||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Nunn, William||Warrender, Sir Victor A G.|
|Greene, William P. C.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Grimston, R. V.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Pearson, William G.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Petherick. M.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllston)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hartland, George A.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Radford, E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Captain Austin Hudson and Mr. Womersley.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Cove, William G.||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Daggar, George||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)|
|Banfield, John William||Dobble, William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Batey, Joseph||Edwards, Charles||Greenwood. Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Buchanan, George||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Cape, Thomas||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Grundy, Thomas w.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Thorne, William James|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Mainwaring, William Henry||White, Henry Graham|
|Janner, Barnett||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|John, William||Maxton, James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Johnstons, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Milner, Major James||Wilmot, John|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Paling, Wilfred||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Kirkwood, David||Parkinson, John Allen||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Leonard, William||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Rathbone, Eleanor||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lunn, William||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Major HILLS
I beg to move, in page 46, line 22, at the end, to insert:Provided that before any rules are confirmed by the Minister under this Section such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned shall be given an opportunity of considering the rules and of making representations thereon to the Minister.The rules may concern a, local authority very deeply. For example, Clause 35 (2) provides that:…rules made under this Part of this Act may provide that a person shall, in such circumstances as may be specified in the rules, be deemed to be capable of and available for work notwithstanding such periods of occasional sickness or incapacity as may be specified therein.I take it that the rules will lay down the length of those periods. The person incapable of work would become chargeable and the rules will lay down in which case the man who has become chargeable is to be taken care of by the Unemployment Assistance Board and in which case by the Public Assistance Authority. The effect of that will be that in one case a man will be a charge on the taxes and in the other case a charge on the rates. I agree that if the Rules of Publication Act, to which the Solicitor-General referred, apply, that will largely meet my point. If it is clear that those rules are statutory rules within the meaning of that Act and that the 40 days of previous publication would be 40 days before the rules were confirmed by the Minister, it would very largely meet my point.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I can relieve the apprehensions of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman when I tell him that it is obvious that neither the board nor the Minister want to make rules which will affect local authorities without, in pro 1728 per cases, the associations of local authorities being consulted. In order that it shall be quite clear that local authorities will have an opportunity of making representations on any rules that are proposed to be made we have inserted the words:Any such rules shall when confirmed be laid before Parliament.The effect of those words is to bring the rules under Sub-section (4) of Section 1 of the Rules Publication Act, which says:The statutory rules to which this section applies are those made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament which directs the statutory rules to be laid before Parliament.Therefore this particular Sub-section clearly connects these rules with this Act of Parliament. Sub-section (2) of Section 1 says:During those forty days any public body may obtain copies of such draft rules…and any representations or suggestions made in writing by a public body interested to the authority proposing to make the rules shall be taken into consideration by that authority before finally settling the rules.In order to make sure that the rules before they are finally confirmed shall be published and that everyone shall have an opportunity of making representations, we have adopted this particular form of procedure.
§ Major HILLS
I take it that associations of local authorities would be public bodies within the meaning of that Section?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I beg to move, in page 46, line 38, at the end, to insert:(3) Before making draft Regulations under this Section the Minister shall consult with the Treasury upon any Regulation which involves a charge upon the Exchequer.1729 I can only assume that the omission of a provision of this kind is an error of draftsmanship, because it is incredible that this procedure can have been deliberately adopted. It is manifestly a constitutional monstrosity. I ask hon. Members to consider the procedure. A board makes regulations relating to needs; it can set up any scales it likes for that purpose. They go to the Minister, who can approve them, and they come up for the approval of Parliament. At no stage in that process is there any legal requirement for consultation with the Treasury. Let us suppose that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was Minister of Labour and picture him as changed from the genial orator we all know and delight to hear into a strong, silent man who declines to consult with any body at all, who takes his own way. An election is about to take place. He puts forward attractive proposals with elaborate scales of relief, with adequate allowances, which Parliament, with an election in sight, gratefully accepts. At no stage is there any security that the Treasury has the money with which to pay. I suggest that the omission of the Treasury is not even a kindness to the unemployed. The satisfaction of the unemployed depends on the money being there. I can only assume that this is an oversight, because in Part I, where the same problem arises in Clause 17, which we did not have an opportunity to debate, it is provided that the Minister shall consult with the Treasury.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I am not sure that I follow the purpose of the Amendment. In Clause 46, Subsection (3) it would appear that the consent of the Treasury is necessary.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Yes, that is when the bill comes to be paid. Of course, at that moment Treasury consent is necessary. The Minister of Labour cannot submit an estimate to Parliament without the approval of the Treasury. You would have this absurd position. Certain scales have been recognised by Parliament, and an Estimate to implement them is coming up. The Treasury not having the money to pay might want to reduce the amount. What an absurd position for the Treasury, when Parliament has already approved the scales? Clearly the Treasury is bound to accept any estimate which does 1730 no more than pay out money which has been demanded by scales approved by Parliament. I hope this is only an omission. When I last mentioned the matter the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) said that I need have no anxiety because the Treasury would be consulted. In every other Statute where Parliament has to provide money there is a provision that the Treasury shall in the first instance be consulted. If the Parliamentary Secretary can give me a single instance in which we are entitled to create a charge without prior consultation between the Treasury and the Minister I admit that I have no case, but I do not think he can give me any such instance. I submit again that, as the Bill stands, it is a constitutional monstrosity.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am not going to reply to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). I will leave it to the Parliamentary Secretary, who can deal with the hon. Member much better. But I think some protest should be made against the spectacle of an hon. Member who is supposed to be a friend of the working man and a Socialist trying to make the difficulties of the poor people even greater than they are now. The hon. Member is now asking that before the Minister of Labour does anything he must go to the Treasury. Everyone knows what that means. It means less money; and we thus have the spectacle of a man who came into this House with the votes of the working-class movement proposing something even worse than that which is proposed by a Conservative Minister of Labour. The hon. Member is even more harsh than the Conservative Minister of Labour, and to me it is a terrible spectacle. Whether I or someone else will be Minister of Labour in doing things with the Treasury behind my back is a spectacle that I need not contemplate.
§ Mr. K. GRIFFITH
The Amendment is not really necessary, because surely under the principle of Cabinet responsibility the Minister of Labour will go to the Cabinet and will get approval of any burden that it is proposed to place on the taxpayer, and he will inevitably consult the Treasury to make sure that his promise will hold good.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member suggested that it would be a constitutional monstrosity if the Clause did not contain the words of the Amendment. I suggest that it would be a constitutional monstrosity for a Minister of Labour to approve these regulations without consulting the Treasury. Quite clearly the draft regulations will be laid before the House on the Government's responsibility. The Government will take responsibility for the regulations as a whole and, naturally, in the ordinary course of events, the various Members of the Government will consult each other. With all respect I suggest to my hon. Friend that the Amendment is quite superfluous. The various Members of the Government, and particularly the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be consulted by the Minister of the day.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
That is a very unsatisfactory answer. The Parliamentary Secretary is entirely inconsistent. If the Government take up that attitude now why are they so careful in Clause 17 that the Minister, after consultation with the Treasury, shall lay these draft orders before Parliament? There must be some meaning behind the omission of the words in this Clause. What is the meaning of the Minister requiring Treasury control in Part I of the Bill and deliberately omitting it in Part II? In reply to the personal remarks of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I would much rather be that kind of friend of the working-classes who is sure that what promises he makes can be fulfilled. The essential thing here is that the money shall be available. The procedure laid down in the Clause provides for no Treasury consultation, and, as I said, a strong silent Minister of Labour, acting on his own, might hold out promises that there was no reasonable chance of fulfilling, and there would be no one to stop him. However, there is no use in dividing the Committee on the point, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
I wish to oppose the Clause, which I regard as one of the 1732 worst in the Bill. It gives power to the board not only to make rules but to make regulations. Let me take the regulations first. Sub-section (3) of Clause 37 says:Such regulations shall in particular provide that the resources of an applicant taken into account shall include the resources of all members of the household of which he is himself a member.That gives the Unemployment Assistance Board power to make regulations for continuing the means test.
That has already been decided by the Committee. All that Clause 51 does is to provide that the rules and regulations must be laid before Parliament and be approved by Parliament. The power to make those regulations has already been decided.
§ Mr. BATEY
I understood that when you ruled earlier in the Debate regarding the rules, we were to have the privilege of debating the regulations. It is quite true that the regulations have to be laid before Parliament and that Parliament has to approve them, but we have to approve the regulations in bulk and we shall not be able to move Amendments to them.
The hon. Member must have slightly misunderstood my earlier Ruling. That Ruling was that the question whether the regulations should be laid before Parliament was covered in Sub-sections (2), (3) and (4), and not in Sub-section (1), an Amendment to which was then under discussion. All we can deal with on the Motion now before the Committee is, what happens to the regulations after they have been made.
This Motion does not deal with what the regulations may contain. The hon. Member can only argue as to the procedure under which the regulations will be brought before this House.
§ Mr. BATEY
When the regulations are brought before the House we ought to 1733 have an opportunity of discussing and coming to a decision upon each regulation. The regulations are going to be far too important to be dealt with otherwise. They will deal with the needs of a family and what a family should receive. That is highly important to some of us who come from districts where large numbers of men will come under this board. The regulations mean so much to us, that we want to have the opportunity of dealing with each one of them when they come before this House. One can imagine that there will be some regulations upon which we would not want to divide the House, but certainly the regulation that is to deal with the needs of a family is one on which we should wish to divide. Therefore I urge that the Committee should not pass this Clause as it stands.
Let me go back now to the rules. In the discussion that has taken place latitude has been allowed in debating what the rules will contain. One notices that the Unemployment Assistance Board is to have power to make rules in connection with the appeal tribunals. We endeavoured to introduce an Amendment in another Clause providing that a man who went before one of these tribunals should be accompanied by someone who could represent him and help him to put his case properly. Some of us represent constituencies in which there are many men who will come under Part II of the Bill and will be subject to the Unemployment Assistance Board. A man may be granted an allowance which he considers unfair and may desire to appeal. He may be unable to put his own case as it ought to be put before the tribunal. Such a man ought to have the assistance of someone else—
The hon. Member now appears to be raising another question which has already been decided by the Committee. I must also remind the hon. Member of the existence of Standing Order 18.
I must remind the hon. Member that the discussion on the earlier Amendments had reference to the question of whether the rules ought to be approved by Parliament 1734 or not. I must also remind him that it is not in order on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," to repeat arguments which have already been used on Amendments proposed to the Clause.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am not aware that the question of the appeal tribunals was dealt with in the earlier discussion, and as the rules for the appeal tribunals are to be made by the Unemployment Assistance Board one would naturally expect that it was in order to raise such an important matter. I wish to put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary. Is it to be understood that there is to be an appeal tribunal set up in every district?
§ Mr. BATEY
I presume then that I would be out of order also in raising any question as to the rules to be made by the board in regard to training camps. If that is the case I can only say that it is a pity that this Debate is to be so restricted. Generally speaking, we are allowed fairly wide debate on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." If however it is the Ruling of the Chair that the Debate on this occasion is to be within narrow limits let me say this. I consider that the Committee would be justified in rejecting this Clause because these rules are to be made by an outside body, and by men who are perhaps altogether unsympathetic towards those receiving benefit and the House of Commons ought to insist on retaining the power of final decision in regard to any rules or regulations made by this board and particularly the rules. Since becoming Members of Parliament some of us have taken an active part in dealing with unemployment questions. Now, for the first time, by this Clause, Parliament is to be deprived of any voice in dealing with these matters. The immense power involved in making rules and regulations of this sort is one which should be subject to discussion and control in Parliament.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
The ton. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) in that part of his speech which was in order raised a point of substance and that is 1735 the extent to which we are permitting the use of regulations and doing things by regulation, which might more properly be done by Statute. We all appreciate the fact that as a result of Acts passed particularly by this Parliament, there has been a constant flow of Ministerial regulations, sometimes as important as and in some cases almost more important than the provisions in the relevant Acts themselves. The Committee ought to consider the extent to which this method of Ministerial regulations is going to be used in the future. There has been a great deal of controversy in the past 12 months about the unauthorised programme put forward for the consumption of the Socialist party by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). His proposals which have been denounced in many quarters, are that there should first be an Enabling Act or Emergency Powers Act, and that, thereafter, the Government should have power to act by means of Orders in Council which presumably would come before Parliament for acceptance or rejection. It seems to me there is not much difference between what is proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman and what is in this Bill. As the hon. Member for Spennymoor pointed out, we have in this case either to accept or reject; we have no opportunity to amend. The greatest importance should be attached to this question of amending regulations.
In all parts of the Committee I think there is a feeling that Parliamentary procedure needs to be reformed and in some cases expedited. It may be that we shall be able to reform it by this method of regulation, but if we allow these vital matters—vital at any rate to a large number of our fellow citizens—to be dealt with by regulations we may do one of two things. If we allow the regulations to be amended, we are inventing a new and speedier form of legislation. On the other hand, if regulations are to be rushed through Parliament, without allowing any Amendment in either House, we are derogating from the power of Parliament. Every Member for an industrial constituency appreciates the importance of the matters which are to be dealt with by these regulations. It would not be in order for me to go into the various decisions that will have to be taken under Clause 37, but in fact 1736 something that a few years ago would have been dealt with by means of legislation, and on the Floor of this House, is to be dealt with by means of regulation. I join the hon. Member for Spennymoor in his protest against our having to decide for or against these things without any opportunity of discussing them Clause by Clause, line by line, and word by word.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I should like to say a word in support of what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) has just said with regard to the need for this House taking control of this form of legislation by administrative order, and in particular that this House should have the opportunity, either on the Floor of the House or through its Committees, of thoroughly considering regulations in draft and amending them. If the hon. Member for Dundee had studied a little more carefully the writings of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), he would have known that my hon. and learned Friend has made very full and detailed proposals to precisely that effect. We get Orders put down in this way and brought here, giving Ministers the chance of making all-important Orders, which come before this House very often late in the evening and have to be either accepted or rejected. I think the system has grown and has got steadily worse, and one recognises, in the complicated legislation of the present time, that there must be a means of making Orders applying detailed regulations, but they should come in a form in which the House can amend them. The hon. Member for Dundee will find that what he has been saying this evening has been but a faint repetition of proposals made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
Your Ruling, Captain Bourne, has rather restricted this discussion, but I understand that the Clause gives to the board power to draw up regulations and rules and submit them to the Minister, who then has power to amend or accept them. If he amends them, what he amends is submitted to Parliament, but Parliament has no right to alter it. It must either accept or reject, and that puts us in a very curious position, because there may be parts of regulations and rules that will be acceptable 1737 to the House and there may be other parts that are clearly wrong, in the opinion of the House. We are told, however, that we must either accept them in [...]ull or reject them. It appears to me to be a travesty of Parliamentary Government, and I hope the National Government, though they are in a tremendous majority at the moment, will recognise where they are leading Parliament. There will not always be a National Government. There may be a change of Government some time or another, and the National Government are putting a weapon into the hands of future Parliaments by what they are doing here. It might be said that others will accept that power and use it accordingly, but when you do that you are undermining the authority of Parliament.
I can visualise a state of things arising in which Members of Parliament will say. "What is the use of our attending Parliament at all?" It brings very closely to our minds what is already happening. Owing to our having a National Government with an overwhelming majority, we are getting nothing like the attendance of Members to which Parliament is entitled, and it is largely because those who belong to the National Government believe that they can carry on without their all being present; and the Opposition are so depleted that it is physically impossible for them to keep up with the work. The result is that Parliament is already getting discredited, and I do not think anyone wishes that to happen. I believe it is the feeling of all the citizens of this country that Parliament stands for the right thing, but it is not right to hand to one Minister absolute power to do whatever he likes.
This is too grave a matter to be allowed to pass through so easily as it appears to be passing to-night. We have passed Clause after Clause without being able to deal with them effectively, and now we land on Clause 51, which seems to be the last ditch, as it were, and under it our powers are being handed over to a certain body over which Parliament will have no control. I raise my voice in protest, and I trust that hon. Members opposite will realise where we are getting and will impress on the Minister that these rules and regulations should be subject to greater scrutiny than is provided under the Clause.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
An Amendment was moved a little while ago by an hon. Member opposite to give some power to local authorities, who would have some amount of authority in working this Bill, and the Parliamentary Secretary indicated that rules would be drawn up and that within a certain limited number of days those rules would be submitted to the local authorities. I want to know if the local authorities will have any power to make any suggestions and, if any suggestions are made, whether the rules can be amended in accordance with those suggestions.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am sorry I did not make myself clear, but I read out the relevant portion of the Act of 1893 which will apply to these rules. The Act says that for 40 days during which they have to be published any public body may obtain copies of the rules and any representations or suggestions made in writing by the public body shall be taken into account by the authority. The authority makes the draft rules, publishes them, and during 40 days any local authority has the right to make representations to the board, and the board must take those representations into consideration.
§ Mr. PALING
Then apparently the local authorities are to have some power given to them which is denied to this House? Apparently we shall not have the right, as Members of Parliament or as a House of Commons, even to make suggestions to the board after they have sent out certain rules. Local authorities will have that right, but the House of Commons will have no such right. The only right that we shall have, when the regulations come before us, is either to accept them as a whole or to reject them as a whole. My next point is that under the Bill this question of regulations is much more important than it has been under previous Bills from the Ministry of Labour. It is true that previously we have only had the same right as we are getting here of accepting or rejecting regulations as a whole. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have used that argument time after time. They have said that this has always been done, and as it has worked fairly well there is no reason why it should not be done in future. 1739 There is the difference, however, that in the past when it has been done the authority has rested with the Minister of Labour, and Members have always been able to ask questions about administration or to approach the Minister about any of the things with which they were dissatisfied. That power will be taken away from us in future, for the whole authority of administration is to be handed over to the board so that, if a Member has a case which he wishes to bring before the Minister, or if he wants to put a question to the Minister, he will be told that the matter has passed out of his hands. I believe that it is being done deliberately because the Ministry of Labour is heartily sick of the whole business and wants to get it out of their hands. Because this power is being taken from us we are entitled to some extra power to amend the regulations. That will be the only way we shall have left to us, as the House of Commons, to make any impression on administration.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
Were this Clause and the powers contained in it submitted by a Labour Government with the same measure of support that the present Government have, it would be strongly opposed by those now supporting it. The Clause suggests that the board is a committee which may advise the Minister, and that he may or may not accept the advice which it gives to him. The Minister is entitled to draft regulations independent of what the board itself may think, because the Clause says:The Minister shall consider any draft regulations so submitted to him and shall make draft regulations either in the form of the draft submitted to him or subject to such variations and amendments as he thinks fit.He may vary it altogether. There is nothing to limit his discretion to vary the draft; in fact, the regulations may be made purely within his own discretion. I submit that if he were a real Labour Minister in charge of this Bill, that proposal would receive the most bitter opposition from those who are now sponsoring it.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I associate myself with the criticisms that have been made on this Clause. I do not want to go into 1740 the academic question of whether this way of creating new legislation by regulations is or is not a legitimate development in legislative procedure; and I gather that you have ruled that to discuss the possible contents of these regulations is not in order at this stage. I wish to make a point, however, with regard to the tendency of the legislation of recent times. The use of regulations to apply the details of a Measure is not something new, but what is being left to regulations seems to be steadily growing in importance relative to what is in the actual Bill. It is a sound device from the point of view of the Government in power. They present the House with a Bill which is really only a skeleton. All the essential things that actually affect the people when the Statute becomes operative are left to regulations.
It seems to me to be transferring the duty of legislation entirely away from the House of Commons, which is elected to do it, on to a body of non-responsible people. I use the word "non-responsible" rather than "irresponsible" as being, I think, more applicable. The four or five gentlemen who are put on to this Unemployment Assistance Board may be very responsible persons in the ordinary affairs of life. They may even carry out their routine duties of administering public assistance in a responsible way, but they will never be regarded as being responsible to anybody in carrying out legislative duties which are not theirs essentially.
The really serious thing about this legislation is not the passing over to another body of the application of detailed points in a big Measure that has been discussed fully here, but the fact that the board are being asked to make, under the name of regulations, new law which in some of its aspects is more important than the things that have actually been discussed here and received the mandate of this House. I was reading in the week-end newspaper that the elections are now in progress for the Italian Parliament. I understand that the form that takes now is that Signor Mussolini draws up a list of 400 appropriate Members of Parliament and presents it to an electorate which is entitled to say either "yes" or "no." I have heard arguments put up in this Committee to-night in favour of regulations on the ground that they save time. 1741 I should think that, compared with our present method of electing a Parliament in England, the Italian method saves a considerable amount of time—and expenditure and worry, too. If one wishes to be a Member of Parliament in Italy and gets on the list, I can understand that it is all right, but it is a far cry from what we understand as Parliamentary democracy to that form of getting a representative Government where the national dictator says, "Here is your Parliament. Take it or leave it. God help you if you do not take it." That is very much the position with which we are being confronted in the matter of these regulations, and if the services of the House of Commons as a debating and legislative assembly can be set aside so easily in favour of a board appointed by the Executive of the day, it is a very short step to putting aside Parliament itself. I sometimes have grave doubts as to whether under existing conditions it is worth while coming here, and if this system were to go on to a much greater extent my mind would be made up entirely—not that the political ideas I have would have to be dropped, but I should have to make up my mind that they would have to be achieved by some other method.
We have had certain promises from the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend above the Gangway is inclined to be cynical. I think better of the Prime Minister, and I do not think his is the proper attitude at all. I should have thought the hon. Member, with his sense of humour, would have preferred that line of criticism rather than the cynical and bitter one. If we are to discuss the faults and failings and virtues of the Prime Minister, we must at once ask for a special day. I am sure the Prime Minister would readily grant it for such an important subject. There is none that is more important in his eye. But at the moment we are discussing these regulations, and I suggest that before the Bill reaches its concluding stages the Government should reconsider the tremendous powers they are handing over to this board, and that when the discussion as to the future procedure which the Prime Minister has promised takes place, this question of the amount of legislation done by regulations shall be one of the issues discussed. The Bill in its final form ought to contain some 1742 power for the House to keep control over and to amend these regulations, and ought to secure that the last authority in determining how the unemployed people under Part II shall be treated shall rest with this House, and not with any group of people who are quite detached and removed from public criticism.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The discussions on Part II have found the Committee faced with greater difficulties than have been experienced, perhaps, in respect of any other piece of legislation. When we have been discussing what is meant by certain Clauses we have been told that we cannot know what those Clauses mean until we see the regulations. Over and over again Members on the Government benches have said, "This is entirely out of order, or, at any rate, if not out of order, it is simply an empty prophecy, because you do not know what will be done until you see the regulations." That argument has provided a marvellous "get-out" for the Government. We Have never had a reply from the Government benches to any special point of criticism on Part II because the Government have not been able to reply.
We have had to proceed on the assumption of what the board will do as to A, B, C and D, because that is not known even to the Government. What the Bill does is to hand over to the board very wide and general powers. While we are giving power to make regulations under Part II, we are unable to discuss the content of those regulations. In that way the House of Commons has been effectually debarred from discussing the fate of practically 1,000,000 unemployed men and 5,000,000 people altogether, without counting those who may be dependent upon them. On no single occasion in connection with this Bill have we had the opportunity of discussing what is to happen to these people, and the reason for that is that the Government have not put the fate of these people into the Bill. All they put in the Bill is a board, and they say that what the board will do will be determined by regulations which the Board will place before the House.
While I was having some food you gave a Ruling, Captain Bourne, that we are now unable to discuss the contents of the regulations that the board may 1743 make. I am not complaining about your Ruling, because you are constrained by the limitations of the Bill, and you are unable yourself, in your own person, to protect the people of Great Britain against the cowardice of the Government. Nevertheless, we do say that this method of legislation is cowardly, that it is against the traditions of this country. That is being realised by the country, and as this Bill has been proceeding through Committee the Government have become more and more uncomfortable. I do not apologise for speaking with great heat in this matter.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. Member opposite complains about the length of my speech. The constituency of the hon. Gentleman has been unrepresented in the House of Commons for many months, except from about 9 o'clock until 11, when the hon. Member comes into the House for what he hopes will be entertainment. I represent a constituency in which practically 50 per cent. of the population will be dependent upon what this board does. Perhaps that will make the hon. Gentleman realise why I attach importance to what we are doing here. This method of legislation disfranchises 50 per cent. of my constituents. Perhaps he will realise, further, that many of those men are mutilated and wounded and spent 4½ years of their lives in Flanders to defend the liberty which this Bill takes away. We have heard the Treasury Bench and, up and down the country, hon. Gentlemen who belong to the Conservative party, paying lip service to the heroism of the men who went out to Flanders in 1914–18. This Bill takes away their rights. It prevents 50 per cent. of my constituents from having any voice at all over the conditions in which they are to live.
The cant and hypocrisy of this House is reaching the limits of degradation. Last Thursday we discussed the distressed areas, and everybody wept crocodile tears 1744 over the articles in the "Times" newspaper and talked about Durham, South Wales, Lancashire and the Clyde. In those are as live the vast majority of the men who are receiving transitional payments. Those men are transferred to Part II of this Bill. The Government are taking £300,000 from Durham, but not a word is said about that, although it is adding to the distress in the area. It is proposed to deal with these men in future by regulation, and to refuse by regulation to allow a Member of Parliament representing those distressed areas a chance to put down any Amendment. If I am not entitled to call that "canting humbug," what can I call it? If hon. Members really believe that those men are entitled to the liberties that the British Constitution has conferred upon them for 300 years, they will permit Members of Parliament to represent the distressed areas, when proposals are brought before this House that will decide the livelihood of those men and the well-being of their children, as well as everything else which affects their welfare.
The we fare of the children is concerned because the Unemployment Assistance Board will decide how much money is to go into the families of 50 per cent. of my constituents; it will decide how much money is to go to practically half the population of Durham, and whether the children in those cases are to be brought up with a decent physical foundation or are to be starved. That is what the regulations are to decide. They will decide how the children are to be educated. If no means are going into a household, that deprives the children of the unemployed of the benefits of the British educational system. To decide the physical well-being and the education of the children is to decide their whole lives. That is what hon. Members are doing. We suggest that a Member of Parliament should have the right to represent the claims of those people upon the Floor of the House of Commons, and yet the hon. Member to whom I have referred comes here and jeers. This, I submit, is the last chance that we shall have, and the hon. Member does not seem to realise it. I am not concerned about quibbles, but about the real and human meaning of what is happening in the Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "So are we!"] It is canting humbug to say that you are. It is humbug of the most mealy-mouthed 1745 description to say that you are. The Government are taking away from the House of Commons the risk of the embarrassment of their supporters. When hon. Members complain at others speaking at length upon these matters in the Committee, do they not understand that we are parting with a method of legislation which is centuries old?
I do not mind if you do that in regard to turbines, electricity, coal or transport, but in this case you are doing it in regard to human beings. When lawyers get up and talk detachedly and abstractly about regulations or rules, and about the necessity of exempting the House of Commons from the obligation to discuss detail, as though there were no living reality behind it, they become absolutely meaningless. No hon. Member objects to the adaptation of constitutional procedure to enable us to get through the vast mass of business which confronts us, but the method which is here suggested takes away from the House of Commons not rights about the administration of things but the right of the ordinary citizen of Great Britain to have his most vital interests represented here. There is no legal quibble in that, but there is a vast human consideration from which hon. Members on the Government Benches try to conceal themselves.
There is a further matter to which I would like to refer. We have had no chance, in the Committee stage, of discus-sing the means test. In Clause 51, which we are now discussing, we are referred to Sub-section (3) of Clause 37. What does that say? If my memory serves me correctly, it discusses all the conditions of the means test and the circumscribing conditions of unemployment assistance. A concession was won in the Committee that the first 20s. of disability pension should be ignored in assessing family income. It has been the practice since 1931 to make workmen's compensation parallel with the disability pension. We shall be debarred from putting down Amendments asking that the first 20s. of workmen's compensation shall be ignored. That would be an important Amendment on a vital matter. Men are mutilated, they are losing their limbs, they are crushed, they suffer from nystagmus, miners' phthisis, silicosis, and all sorts of dreadful industrial diseases, but we shall be debarred, as representatives of the industrial constituencies, from putting down 1746 an Amendment of that kind, although we have not been able to discuss the subject in Committee. We have not had a chance to discuss it. We did not reach it. The Government gagged it, and when their regulations come before us we shall be gagged again, because the Minister in charge of them will not defend them.
Ministers defend nothing now. They shelter themselves behind the technique of Government. They get up and say, as they have said in the course of this Debate, "There is no need for us to defend this. It has received the careful consideration of the six persons who are dealing with these matters, and it has received the consideration of the Minister, so that there is no need for us to do any more than to commend it to the approval of the House." That is removing from the Government any obligation whatever of defending their legislation. It is a very easy job for Parliamentary Secretaries and for Ministers of Labour. The way in which the Parliamentary Secretary started off on this Bill would, I thought, enhance his Parliamentary reputation. He made a very good speech on the Second Reading, one of the best speeches that I have heard from the Government Front Bench for some years. He has not made one since, and from that high altitude his reputation has gradually declined, and it has declined because he has brought forward a Bill which does not lay upon him the responsibility of defending anything. He simply has to rely upon a technique of this kind.
I am not anxious to discuss this business in greater detail, but I want to say with every sincerity that I believe that hon. Members, in legislating in this kind of way, are not being decent, quite apart from party politics, to those hundreds of thousands of workmen who have had every chance of rescue stripped from them and who are absolutely helpless, caught up in the mazes of an industrial system over which they have no control. Their present fate is decided for them by social forces as immutable as the ancient gods, and, when they want to have their interests safeguarded by their public representatives, you take away from them the only chance they have of making their voices heard. This is a cheap way of doing the business. There is something to be said for Fascism. At any rate, it is open: they bring their 1747 Fascists and their hooligans; they do not do it in evening dress, or bring up smugfaced, mealy-mouthed lawyers to defend them. You are taking away from the working-classes any means they might have of making their voices heard in the councils of the people.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) on the seriousness of this Clause. When Part I was going through, I looked upon that as important, but it is not half so important as Part II. One of the things which I have always thought most peculiar in Part II is that, whereas in Part I we got a concession from time to time, in this portion of the Bill, with perhaps one exception, we have had no concession at all. That exception dealt with the question of ex-service men, a sentimental issue on which the Government were afraid to face the people. Part II is so important because it deals with a section of the population who have been the longest out of work.
In debating this Clause I want to review the actual powers that the board will possess. It is as well that the House should review what powers this board will have, to carry out the tremendous actions that they will carry out in regard to the unemployed of this country. The board have greater power now than Parliament. They will possess a power, once this Bill is passed, to declare the amount that a child shall receive. Under the regulations they will be entitled to say whether that amount shall be small or large; in other words, they can set aside Parliamentary opinion. There is one vital issue in this country. I only speak for the places that I know well, but there the people have long since dropped the promises of all classes of politicians that a job was going to be given to them. They have waited patiently. In my early days they did not bother much about unemployment benefit; the thought that a job was coming was superior. They drifted on hoping for a job; they wanted work and wages, not unemployment benefit. But the work did riot come, and the great issue in the country is now the care of the unemployed. I challenged one hon. Member and he did not accept my challenge; he knew it was true.
1748 In London the remarkable thing is that the unemployment, on an average, is low. In the London County Council elections, although unemployment is low in London, the one dominating issue was the care of the child and how much it was to receive. It was a "3s. to the child" election. From one platform to the other that was the issue. Even where unemployment was lowest, in Chelsea and Westminster, at meeting after meeting the well-being of the child and what it was to receive was the dominating issue. The London County Council, a public body, had determined that amount, but to-day you are handing to a nondescript board over a duty and a right—the right to say to at least 2,000,000 children how they are to live. You have no right to do that. I do not care who the board are; you have no right to say to that board that, they shall say what a child is to get. That board can flout medical opinion. If medical opinion says that the child needs 3s., the board can say "We don't care." The board can flout Parliamentary opinion.
Please note that we can challenge the Minister in the Vote on every other issue. You can challenge the Home Office on the care of a criminal; let a criminal die, and I can come to this House and attack the Home Office on their treatment of him. Let a child be underfed under the Poor Law, and I can attack the Scottish Office in Scotland. But let a child receive insufficient here, and this board is to be left alone. There is no Parliamentary control on this one vital issue. No other issue matters. Housing matters a little, but it hardly matters; food matters. That is the struggle you are now facing. Today these other issues, important as they might seem, have been flung aside, but in this I think the people are right. To-day the issue is that this board have an absolute right by regulation to determine how sickness is to be dealt with, apart from the 7s. 6d. They can determine inside a home who the family is to be. They can make any kind of contact in family life; they can say that a stepson, stepfather, cousin, or any kind of relation can be a member of the family. They can determine this by regulation. Who can determine it? Six men. We do not know who the six are; they may be six men divorced from the common people; six people with no actual contact from day to 1749 day with the realities of life. We give to those six men powers that the House of Commons has for many years fought to possess.
Why did this Government come into office? Why did the Labour party come into being? The answer is simple; it was poverty that brought them in. [Interruption.] This is not a laughing matter. I never was more serious, and I do not intend that this shall be made into a sneering Debate. I am not going to allow the hon. Member to sidetrack me into a laughing matter. It is not a laughing matter to me; it is the most serious thing in the whole of politics. That party came into being for one reason—poverty. What brought them into being was this issue of the maintenance of the unemployed. That great party has held Government responsibility, and, if I may say so, is likely to hold it again at a comparatively early date, but in the intervening period they are to have no say in determining the issue of poverty in this country.
I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) saying what I thought was very true—how kind individually the House of Commons can be. Everybody is kind to an individual appeal. If anyone goes to any Member of the House, whether Tory, Liberal or Labour, with an individual appeal for some human being, that Member will be as kind as anyone could imagine. But, my hon. Friend said, taking them collectively, the same kind individuals could do the most cruel things as a collective body. You are doing them to-night. I noticed that the Prime Minister, in a letter to the Press, said that the House of Commons had not turned down 3s. for a child, but, wisely, had not expressed a figure. There might have been some truth in that statement of the Prime Minister if this Clause had not been in the Bill, and if the Amendment which has been moved had been included in the Bill. If the suggested committee, on going into the point and submitting their report to the House of Commons, recommended 2s., then it would have been open to the House of Commons to agree. But no; the House of Commons hand over to this small body the right under the Bill to determine almost anything for the unemployed. There are two issues, to which I have already referred, which annoy me 1750 considerably. One is that of payment in kind to the unemployed. Ever since unemployment insurance was instituted, payments to the unemployed have always been made in actual money. For the first time this Bill finishes that.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Let the hon. Member wait while I develop my point. I say that for the first time payment in kind is to be made by a Government to the unemployed. I know that it is done in England under the Poor Law, though it has never been done much in Scotland, but here, for the first time in connection with the national care of the unemployed, payment in kind is to be provided for in a national Act of Parliament. Hitherto, under all governments, even in the case of extended benefit, money has been paid to the individual. For the first time we are departing from that principle and are giving power to this body to define the regulations under which payment in kind shall be made. That is a terribly serious thing. The House of Commons many years ago abolished the truck system in the payment of wages, but, when a National Government starts paying the unemployed, or sections of them, in kind, it is getting very near the truck system for wages.
I think I must remind the hon. Member that the Committee has already decided that that shall be done, and all that we are discussing now is whether or not the House shall have opportunities of revising the regulations.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, we have decided that, but we have not decided the regulations under which it can be done. I say that the House, if it departs from a vital principle, should only depart from it under conditions that provide safeguards up to the last limit. We have given that power, and what I am claiming now is that the regulations which make a person receive payment in kind ought to be scrutinised and amended by the House of Commons. Surely that is not an undue claim. All that I say is that, before that terrible power can be exercised, the House of Commons should survey the regulations. In my view this Clause is a deadly Clause in its operation. It is perfectly true that certain 1751 local authorities are anxious to get this Bill from the point of view that it will help to save them local rates, but, with all the burdens that I know are being borne by Glasgow and Durham and other places, I would infinitely prefer the present Poor Law system, with all its disadvantages, to the handing over of the power to this small body. Under the Poor Law system there is at least public control. The man can go to his council and have the matter raised; he can invoke a public control in some way or other; but here, even if a Member of Parliament comes and asks the reason for what has been done, the answer he will get is that this body has submitted its regulations and they have been approved. When, however, the regulations come here, it will not be possible to amend them; the matter will be a vote of confidence in the Minister. It will not even be done free from the party Whips. We shall have to take what the Minister says, and do what he does; and it is to be decided by these six men.
Many years ago, on great constitutional issues, the country took certain powers away from another place; they decided that another place should have no power in certain matters of finance. But to-day we are giving to six men greater power than the House of Lords ever possessed. The House of Lords works in public; there is this at least to be said for it, that it does its work from day to day in public. Yet this country curbed its power. To-day these six men are being given power to draft their regulations in private, to submit them here, and then to do their day-to-day work in private, without even the defence that a criminal has—without the public defence of a lawyer, without the public defence of a Press. To-day we are engaged in a wholesale conspiracy. Why? Because these people are poor. They are unwanted. They are a burden.
I see everywhere an effort made to do something for the poor. One week it is to sterilise them, the next to do this and the other, all because they are a burden. You only need them when there is a war, and then you tell them how good they are. If there were a war, you would make an appeal to their patriotism, and they would go. But you do not even give them the right to public criticism 1752 of the House of Commons. I agree with the last speaker that it is the most shameful thing that I have seen here. It gives one a feeling of contempt to think of the Prime Minister, who was put there with the shillings and pennies of these people, taking part in this conspiracy to rob them of their rights. If he were a lesser person, he would be sentenced for being a criminal and a felon. As long as he is engaged in this conspiracy, he is even more contemptible than the worst felon.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. HUDSON
After the two last speeches it would perhaps be well if I reminded the Committee what the Clause really does. We have gone to the extreme practical limits of securing Parliamentary responsibility and control over the actions of the board. The board has to draft the regulations and the Minister, with his full sense of Ministerial responsibility, can amend them in any way he thinks fit, subject to having to produce to the House of Commons the comments of the board on any alterations that he makes. It must be clear to the Committee that these regulations, covering as they will a whole multitude of possible circumstances, are bound to be very complicated. The whole object of setting up the board was to attempt to see that this new scheme of national responsibility for the relief of the able-bodied unemployed was carried out in as broad and uncontroversial and impartial a spirit as was possible, and it is, therefore, to be anticipated that the regulations which the board will issue after due consideration will be comprehensive regulations looking at the problem as a whole and, above all, treating the family as a whole.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The family which is to be the unit—the household. If our expectations are fulfilled, that those regulations are to be comprehensive and to have regard to the household as a whole, the Committee will, I hope, agree that the result of Amendments here and there would almost certainly be to upset the general balance of the regulations. It is proposed that they should be submitted to both Houses of Parliament and should not come into operation until both Houses have passed affirmative resolutions. Hon. Members opposite might well stop to consider for 1753 a moment what, in somewhat analogous circumstances, they did. They passed the Anomalies Act of 1931, Section 1 of which enables the Minister toimpose such additional conditions and terms with respect to the receipt of benefit, to impose restrictions on the amount and period of benefit, and make such modifications in the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Acts relating to the determination of claims for benefit as may appear necessary for the purposes aforesaid.There was no question of submitting those regulations to the approval of the House of Commons. The party opposite gave the Minister of Labour full power to alter the conditions for the receipt of benefit, although they were incorporated in an Act of Parliament, to increase contributions, to diminish the length of time for which a man might receive benefit or to cut him off benefit altogether. There was no question of submitting the regulations for amendment or even of bringing them before the House. The Minister was given full and irresponsible power, after consulting the Advisory Committee, to make such regulations as he thought fit, and there was an end to it. We do not desire in any way to reduce the responsibility of the House. The regulations will come before the House in due course with all the responsibility of the Government behind them, and the Government will stand or fall by them. In any case the House of Commons will be free to say "Yes" or "No" and, if they decide that the regulations are not reasonable in all the circumstances of the case, it will be open to them to reject them and to instruct the Minister, the Government and the board to bring forward regulations which do meet with their approval. For these reasons, on the whole I think the procedure outlined in the Clause is the best.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The hon. Gentleman, after two speeches which ought to be an indication of the feeling that there is, sought to bring the Committee back to the question that was under discussion, but, unlike the Parliamentary Secretary in his best form, he has singularly failed to do that. The question before the Committee is one of very great principle. We are dealing with the rules that are to be made for the treatment of people who have lost their rights under the Unemployment Insurance Acts. We are in this Bill dividing unemployed 1754 persons into two categories, those who have not been unemployed very long and those who have been unemployed for a very considerable period of time. If they have not been unemployed for very long, they get their statutory benefit without any kind of inquisition. If they have been unemployed sufficiently long to become ineligible for receiving their benefit for more than 26 weeks in the year, they fall into the second category. My submission is that, after these years of trade depression, after this period in the last three or four years of unparalleled unemployment, the people who have been unemployed the longest deserve the most sympathetic consideration. The Bill in a way admits that, because the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour, and the Parliamentary Secretary have boasted of it and supporters of the Government on the platform have boasted of it. If a man has had a good record for the last five years, even although he has received his 26 weeks, he may receive a little more. That is an admission that this differentiation between the two kinds of unemployed workers is wrong. The appeal that has been made for public support is an appeal that the unemployed workers are to be treated better than they were, but if people have not got good lives and good insurance records, and if they are among the worst kind of victims of the present trade depression, they are to be treated in a very special way.
Why are they being treated like this? For the same purpose and with the same motive as they were treated in 1931 when this Government came into office—for purposes of economy. It is clear that people who fall under Part II of the Bill are to be treated less advantageously than people who enjoy the benefits of Part I. That is clear, because if they were going to be treated as well as they would be if they were receiving Unemployment Insurance benefit, this Government might have permitted them to have continued to receive Unemployment Insurance benefit. It is clear, therefore, that they are to be treated in a less advantageous way. In other words, it is the old business of transitional payments over again. They are to receive less. The Parliamentary Secretary admitted it when he said that they were treating the family as a whole, by which he admitted that he meant the household as a whole. But this new authority 1755 is to be a new kind of Poor Law authority, and run on the same kind of principles as the old Poor Law. I, personally, do not believe in the old Poor Law. I always have been, since I understood the problem, against our Poor Law system, but at least it had this merit, that when the whole resources of the household were taken into account they were taken into account by representative people who were on the spot. The weakness of Clauses 34 and 51 is that you are maintaining the principles of the Poor Law with a centralised authority which has no kind of responsibility whatever to the people in the locality or to the people who represent the masses of the electors in this House.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was on the point of reminding the right hon. Gentleman that I have not yet found out how he applies the argument which he has been using hitherto to the question of rules and regulations with which this Clause deals.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I am only replying to a statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am not discussing the merits of the means test. I must point out to you, Sir Dennis, that the Parliamentary Secretary referred to comprehensive regulations in which he said they were treating the family as a whole, and I had to remind him that it was the household and not the family. I am simply replying to his point. My general argument—and it has application to the rules which are being made under Clause 51—is that, although the Poor Law system may be wrong, as I believe it to be, with its meticulous measurement of household resources, it is at least more reasonable than the principle which is being applied now in Clause 51. The position with which we are faced under this Clause is that, the board, having been established, sitting in Whitehall and responsible to no one, as independent as the judges of the High Court and entirely outside any kind of public control, are, by the rules which they lay down, to exercise the most meticulous kind of regulation over the lives of at least half the unemployed people in this country.
1756 If the Government had laid down in the Bill the principle on which they were going to establish their rules, and if they had put into the Bill the guiding line by which the Unemployment Assistance Board would be governed, there might have been something to be said for this procedure, but the truth is, as I suggested on an earlier Amendment, that no principles at all have been suggested. The board are to be left completely free to determine these rules, to impoverish and to humiliate the people who have lost unemployment insurance benefit through no fault of their own, to discredit the poor, and to do what they like with them, and no man can say them nay. Once this Bill leaves the House, hon. Members opposite may be very pleased that they have got such a buffer. An hon. Member says "a shock-absorber," which is, perhaps, a more expressive phrase. They may be very pleased with it, but the people will not be pleased.
I have no objection whatever to ridding this House of consideration of detailed regulations. I agree with what has been said on the benches opposite to-day that we spend the time of the House discussing things which might well be left to Ministers, but it is not a case of leaving the question to Ministers. The Parliamentary Secretary said that, under the Anomalies Act, the thing was left to the Minister. But at least we could have the Minister in the House. He is here now. We can have him here on other occasions. Once this Bill is an Act of Parliament the Minister will be able to go off to dinner, to a cabaret or to such places as he frequents, and he can say, "My heart is wrung. I am sorry for the unemployed, but it has nothing whatever to do with me." He will be perfectly entitled to do so. Is that a position that the Committee can accept when the Minister, ever since there has been a Ministry of Labour, has been charged with the care of the insurable unemployed? Is it a position that this Committee can take, that now we are to hand over a large number of unemployed to a body who under this Clause can make rules which cannot be effectively questioned by this House, and that the Minister should be enabled to enjoy a life of ease such as none of his predecessors has ever enjoyed since the Ministry was established in 1919? 1757 The right hon. Gentleman is in this House, and none of us wish that there should be greater responsibility borne on his shoulders, but we see no reason why he should try to escape his responsibilities. We should prefer that the responsibilities for the unemployed worker which are in Part I or Part II should rest with the Minister of the Crown whose actions can be challenged, and who can be questioned and brought to explain at that Box why he has done this, that and the other. Once this Bill is on the Statute Book, we part with that power, not as regards people who are out of work and in work, people who are organised, and are able to defend themselves, but we are parting with the power to protect the most defenceless sections of the unemployed, those who have been out of work the longest.
During this Parliament this House has taken no greater decision that it is taking on this Bill when it hands over to unnamed persons, with unlimited powers, the right to determine the lives of our fellow citizens. As my hon. Friends have said, it means disfranchisement for large numbers of these people. They will be unable to lay their complaints before any of their representatives. They will be the creatures of a system. They will be in a position which will be no better than that of the helots of ancient Greece. They will not be citizens of this country but will be an inferior slave class. They will have lost their citizen
§ rights. They will be the people upon whom the nation will call in the nation's hour of trial, and the nation will expect them to respond, as every citizen ought to respond to the nation's call; but you have no right to expect that unemployed people, who have suffered more intensely from economic depression which is largely the result of the last War, should respond if you are now going to deprive them of any kind of appeal to the people who represent the electors.
§ That is what Clause 34 and Clause 51 are doing. I have no doubt that the Amendment will be defeated. I can only warn the Committee that if they defeat the Amendment they will be acting against the best interests of democracy in this country and certainly against the best interests of large numbers of our people who are in their present circumstances through no fault of their own. They are differentiating between the better-off people and the more unfortunate people. They are hiving off those who are unemployed for a short time and those who have been unemployed for a long time, while those who need the community's help the most, those who have been out of work the longest time, are to be subjected to the indignities of a Poor Law system infinitely worse than the system which was established under the Poor Law of 1834.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 228; Noes, 60.1759
|Division No. 180.]||AYES.||[10.9 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Burnett, John George||Dickle, John P.|
|Adams. Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Dower, Captain A. V. G.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Duggan, Hubert John|
|Albery, Irving James||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofrlc||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Apsley, Lord||Christie, James Archibald||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Fielden, Edward Brockiehurst|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th.C.)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Blindell, James||Conant, R. J. E.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Cook, Thomas A.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cooke, Douglas||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Copeland, Ida||Goff, Sir Park|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Cranborne, Viscount||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Crooke. J. Smedley||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Greene, William P. C.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Grlmston, R. V.|
|Browne, Captain A. C||Cross, R. H.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Hammersley, Samuel S.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hartley, Dennis A.||Milne, Charles||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Mitcheson, G. G.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-ln-F.)|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine.C)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Morrison, William Shephard||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Hornby, Frank||Moss, Captain H. J.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Munro, Patrick||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Stevenson, James|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Storey, Samuel|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Nunn, William||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Petherick, M.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)||Templeton, William P.|
|Knight, Holford||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Pybus, Sir Percy John||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Leckle, J. A.||Radford, E. A.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Leach, Dr. J. W.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Lees-Jones, John||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Islet)||Train, John|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Tree, Ronald|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Rankin, Robert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Little, Graham, Sir Ernest||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Remer, John R.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Ropner. Colonel L.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Loftus, Pierce C.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Mabane, William||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Salt, Edward W.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Scone, Lord||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Selley, Harry R.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||TELLERS FOB THE AYES.—|
|Mason. Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Shepperson. Sir Ernest W.||Major George Davies and Lord Erskine.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell. David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Paling, Wilfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Sevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton. Sir R. W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Buchanan, George||Harris, Sir Percy||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||Rea, Waiter Russell|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Janner, Barnett||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Daggar, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton;||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dobbie, William||Lawson, John James||White, Henry Graham|
|Edwards, Charles||Leonard, William||Williams. David (Swansea, East)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William||Wilmot, John|
|Foot. Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|George, Megan A, Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Graham. D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgcw, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry||Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
Question put, and agreed to.