§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment which I call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis).
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I beg to move, in page 15, line 22, at the end, to insert :or towards the establishment of a benefit stabilisation fund with the object of securing uniformity in rates of benefit over long periods of time whether employment be plentiful or scarce.The effect of the Amendment will be that one of the purposes for which the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee will be able to recommend the application of a surplus or part of a surplus will be a reserve fund for the stabilisation of rates of benefit. The object is to secure that uniform rates of benefit are paid over long periods of time and that the rate of benefit does not rise and fall according as to whether trade is good or bad, or whether the payments in the current year into the fund are large or, comparatively speaking, small. If some such steps are not taken we are 974 in this position : A man in employment may pay into the fund for a number of years, during which time another man who is unemployed may draw out benefit at the rate then current. Owing to a falling off in trade and a consequent reduction in the rate of benefit, the first man may now become unemployed and find that, though he draws benefit, it is not at the same rate as when he used to contribute to the fund, but at a lower rate. It is, on the face of it, a most undesirable state of affairs.
It may be argued that these fears are to some extent unnecessary, but as to that we have past experience to guide us. I see that in the report of the Royal Commission, page 20, paragraph 29, column 2, the rates of benefit applicable to an adult man, wife and two children are set out, and that over a period of 18 years the rate of benefit in that case has been altered no less than nine times. It has sometimes gone up and sometimes down. I think that most people would agree that whatever is a reasonable period for the stabilisation of benefit, that number of changes in that period is not reasonable, and we want if we can to avoid such frequent changes up and down in the future. It is of the utmost importance 975 that the Statutory Committee should take a long view in these matters, and I am most apprehensive as to whether, operating under the Bill as now drafted, it will be possible for them to take a long view. The important words in this connection occur in Sub-section (3) of Clause 18. They are :If the committee at any time report that the Unemployment Fund is or is likely to become, and is likely to continue to be, insufficient to discharge its liabilities, or is and is likely to continue to be more than reasonably sufficient to discharge its liabilities, and so on.The House will see that the all-important determining factor is what is meant by the words : "likely to continue to be." I see that the Minister of Labour is here, and I shall be most grateful to him if in the course of the Debate he will tell us what he understands by the words "likely to continue to be." Does he visualise a period of weeks or of months or of years? He has not yet informed the House upon that point. We have had some light thrown upon it by another Minister of the Crown whom I also see here, and that is the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As he is present I want to remind him of something which he said about this matter on the Committee stage of the Money Resolution. I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 11th December. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said :There is no provision under which a recommendation can be made by the Committee to set up a reserve.At that point the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) interposed with this question :Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that they would not be entitled, if they thought it necessary, to put aside money to meet any greater charges on the fund next year?The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied :They are not entitled to do that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1933; col. 95, Vol. 284.]I submit that if that is the view of the Government on this Clause, it is quite clear that their view is that the Statutory Committee may not look even 12 month's ahead in considering the state of the fund. That is an alarming prospect with regard to a fund of this magnitude, and I hope that the Minister of Labour will let us know what, in his view, is intended to be the effect of the words which appear 976 in the Bill governing this matter—the words "continue to be." We have to remember that in times of good trade all of us tend to be optimistic. If trade is rising there is always a feeling about that it is going to be even better in a few month's time or next year, and it is very hard to find anyone who really visualises the end of those good conditions. You see examples of it in booms of all kinds. Everybody, whatever the past experience may have been, cannot help catching the general spirit of optimism that there is about, and thinking and acting as if those good conditions were going on indefinitely, whereas all experience teaches us that periods of good trade are followed by periods of bad trade.
If there be no such provision as that which we are suggesting here, it must of necessity follow that if benefits are distributed up to the hilt in good times, they will have to be reduced in bad times, or, alternatively, contributions will have to be increased to maintain them. I do not want the House to be under any misapprehension as to our intentions in this matter. It is not suggested that the rates of benefit, as set out now in the Bill, should be for all time. We want to avoid the raising of the rates of benefit and the subsequent necessity of lowering them. We want them to remain as they are until it is safe to increase them, so that the increase may, in its turn, be maintained. It is clear that that is impossible unless financial provision, is made for some kind of reserve fund for the purpose of stabilisation. It is the desire that when a man who is in work pays into the fund he shall know what he in turn will get out of the fund when he is out of work.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. J. REID
I beg to second the Amendment.
I should like first to put the present position under the Bill as I understand it. I confess that when I first heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that there was no provision for a reserve fund, I somewhat misunderstood his position, and I regarded the position with considerable alarm. My alarm was to some extent allayed by what took place in the Committee stage on this Clause, and I should like to deal with what then took place. I had the good fortune to move an 977 Amendment to this part of the Bill in somewhat different terms from the present Amendment just before the Guillotine fell, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was somewhat interrupted in his reply, and I understood him to say that the matter would be considered before the Report stage. I may have misunderstood the position in the somewhat difficult conditions for hearing, because I notice that the OFFICIAL REPORT only reports the first few words and the rest is cut off with the significant word "Interruption." In col. 1653, on 12th February, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was still his view that the Bill did not enable a reserve fund to be established, but, quoting what he said there,that does not mean that they cannot establish what one may call a working balance.I said, in the following column :I want to ask one question : Would the Chancellor consider a sum of the nature of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 a reasonable sum such as could be carried forward from one year to another?And the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was :That would be a matter for the Committee to consider."—[OFFIONAL REPORT, 12th February, 1934; cols. 1653–54, Vol. 285.]It is, therefore, to be inferred from that statement that it is competent for the Committee to carry forward a matter of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 from one year to another if they think that it is the right thing to do. From my point of view, I have no doubt whatever that the Committee would desire to carry forward as big a sum as possible for the purpose, as expressed in this Amendment, for evening out fluctuations in the income and expenditure of the fund.
Therefore, so far the point has been met. We have been told that the Statutory Committee are entitled to carry forward, if they choose, a sum of the magnitude of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. I think that an even larger sum might well be put to reserve because there may be very violent fluctuations. I put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if it is contemplated that the Committee can carry forward a sum of this magnitude it is better to carry the sum to a reserve fund than to call it a working balance. One can understand a working balance of 978 a few hundreds of thousands of pounds or even £1,000,000 in matters of this magnitude, but when we come to sums of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000—I speak as a layman in accounting matters and may be I am wrong—I think it would be better to call it a reserve fund and put it aside definitely for a rainy day rather than keep it in the till as a working balance. We have already got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a large part of the substance of the Amendment, the real purpose of which is to regularise the position and allow the Committee to put an even larger sum to reserve.
The National Debt Commissioners are going to get a substantial instalment of £5,000,000 each year, and I would add my thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the concession he made on that matter and for having put his name to an Amendment reducing the rate of interest, which does ensure that the interest will be regularly paid and a considerable sum put to Sinking Fund, so that the debt is to be paid off in something like 40 years. If there is a surplus over and above that £5,000,000 for the first few years I think it is much better that it should go to reserve and be available to prevent alterations in the rates of benefit rather than go to a further acceleration of the payment of debt. In my view it is not necessary to pay off the debt quite so quickly as the £5,000,000 instalment will bring about, but I entirely accept the compromise which has been arrived at. Having established the principle that the debt is to be paid off in such a reasonably short period it would be a graceful act on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to complete his concessions in this matter by saying that the surplus will not be used to further reduce the period during which the debt will be paid off, but that it shall be retained by the Committee for the establishment of a Reserve Fund.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
I am much interested in the speeches of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid), as they mark a change in the attitude of hon. Members opposite in regard to the rates of unemployment benefit as contrasted with the attitude of some of the auxilliary bodies which support the Conservative party. I have been 979 recalling to mind a number of speeches and documents which have suggested that the rates of unemployment benefit should be closely associated with the cost of living. I have in mind a publication of the Federation of British Industries in which that argument is used, and I think the Royal Commission had something to say on the same lines. I am certain that the May Economy Report talked in that fashion. We have never agreed that the rates of benefit should fluctuate according to the rise and fall in the cost of living, and we heartily welcome a proposal which will fix them irrespective of rises and falls in the cost of living. It is interesting to find the present proposal coming from the Government benches. We shall support the Amendment if it is pressed to a Division. We would gladly see the rates of benefit raised considerably, and when they are raised we do not want them to rise and fall with the rise and fall in the cost of living. We want them stabilised at a higher level than they are to-day, and with that qualification we shall support the Amendment in the Division Lobby.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I desire in a few words to support the principle of the Amendment. There is a real danger if times improve that any surplus will go to pay off still further the unemployment liability of the past. The idea is to put the fund on a sound financial basis so that the rates of benefit will not constantly fluctuate. This is an insurance fund and, obviously, it must have reserves in the interests of the beneficiaries, so that contributors may know when they pay in week by week and month by month, when they are employed that when a rainy day comes there will be enough money in the fund to meet the liability to all the individuals concerned. The attraction of the Amendment to me is that if something of this kind is not inserted we may have the Statutory Committee proposing to utilise the surplus to still further decrease debt and increase the £5,000,000 by the amount of the surplus brought about by good times.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am pleased that there is a process of enlightenment going on among hon. Members behind the Government. Their intention is to put this 980 money to reserve, to a kind of stabilisation fund, rather than to the relief of debt. If they continue in this way they will land where the Labour party have been for some considerable time, and that is that the £5,000,000 interest should go to a reserve fund rather than to the relief of debt. When you get to that point there is an inkling of the truth in the minds of hon. Members opposite that it is necessary to have a solvent fund and stabilised payments. If not it will probably be found, if unemployment gets worse, that it will be necessary to reduce the amount of benefit. We support the Amendment but we do not believe that the rates of benefit are sufficient. We believe that we shall ultimately have to consider the inclusion of great masses of people who are now considered under transitional payment. It is a good thing that such a proposal as this should be made because it shows that the case we have been putting for a stable and solvent fund, which will do justice to the great mass of the people, must have a reserve fund. The right hon. Gentleman will have to go further than he did the other afternoon, when we had some pretty politics for about two hours, which meant nothing in the long run, and put the £5,000,000 to reserve.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
The Amendment has really nothing to do with the question of the debt, which has already been settled, or with the question as to whether benefits should rise and fall with the cost of living. The purpose of the Amendment is one with which every one who has any regard for the idea of an insurance fund at all will sympathise—namely, that there should be as little change as possible from time to time in the rates of benefit payable. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that he had already got a great deal of the substance of the Amendment in the concessions I made on the Bill in Committee. The hon. Member is quite right. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) has forgotten, I think, for a moment the rather longer account I gave in Committee of my view of the meaning of the words in the Bill. Really, the whole question turns upon the interpretation of one word—the word "reasonable." Whilst it may be thought 981 that it is only a matter of words, the distinction between a reserve fund and a working balance, there is rather more in it than that. It appears to me that there is a definite distinction between the two terms, a distinct difference between the idea of a reserve fund and the interpretation which I put on the word "reasonable." The difference, as I see it, is simply the difference between long-term and short-term fluctuations.
Under the terms of the Bill it is possible for the Statutory Committee to provide against what I call short-term fluctuations. The intention of the Amendment, it has been so stated, is to provide against long-term fluctuations. I do not think it is possible to set up a reserve fund which will be large enough permanently to stabilise the rates of benefit. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) has pointed out that you may have considerable fluctuations, as we have seen in the past, for a comparatively short time. It has been stated in the course of these Debates that a variation in the average level of unemployment of 100,000 persons makes a difference one way or the other to the finances of the fund of £3,000,000 a year. You might have a number as large as 500,000 in a comparatively short time, say a few years, and that is at once a difference of £15,000,000. Nobody can say that 500,000 would be the utmost extent of the variations which might take place in a comparatively short time.
Since attention has been drawn to the matter we, naturally, have gone into it further, and we are advised that this
§ term "more than reasonably sufficient to discharge its liabilities" could be interpreted accurately as giving the Statutory Committee power to provide for what I may call a working balance, which will mean a carry-over not necessarily only for one year. It may mean a carry-over for a longer period than that and would, I think, be a natural procedure on the part of the Statutory Committee in order to iron out what I would call the short-term fluctuations which otherwise might arise in the course of a single year. Therefore, I think my hon. Friends will see that, on that interpretation of these words, they have got already in the Bill everything that it is practicably possible to secure in this way, and that the setting up of a reserve fund could not be expected to enable the Committee to do more than they can do now to iron out the longer term fluctuations, because we cannot imagine that they would be able to set up a large enough reserve fund to provide for the stabilisation of benefit. In these circumstances and with that reassurance, if I may so call it, I hope they will not find it necessary to press their Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided : Ayes, 54; Noes, 302.985
|Division No. 248]||AYES.||[6.48 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Reld, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Bernays, Robert||Harris, Sir Percy||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cape, Thomas||Holdsworth, Herbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Janner, Barnett||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||West, F. R.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lewis, Oswald||Wilmot, John|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mainwarlng, William Henry||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Milner, Major James|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Mlddlesbro', W.)||Nathan. Major H. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major Goronwy||Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Elmley, Viscount||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds. W.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loftus, Pierce C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Entwlstle, Cyril Fullard||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Alexander, Sir William||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||MacAndrtw, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Ersklne-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Antruther-Gray, w. J.||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Applin. Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Fox, Sir Gifford||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Astbury. Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Fraser, Captain Ian||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Ganzonl, Sir John||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Gillett, Sir Gaorge Masterman||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Glossop, C. W. H.||Magnay, Thomas|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Maltland, Adam|
|Balniel, Lord||Goff, Sir Park||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Goldie, Noel B.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th, C.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Granted, E. C. (City of London)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Blindell, James||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Boulton, W. W.||Grigg, Sir Edward||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Grimston, R. V.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Milne, Charles|
|Bracken, Brendan||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hales, Harold K.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Buchan, John||Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'tles)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hammarsley, Samuel s.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hanley, Dennis A.||Munro, Patrick|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Burnett, John George||Harbord, Arthur||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||North, Edward T.|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Cassels, James Dale||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Pearson, William G.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hopkinson, Austin||Peat, Charles u.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W.)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Penny, Sir George|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hornby, Frank||Percy. Lord Eustace|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, 5.)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Petherick, M.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)|
|Clarke, Frank||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n.Bilston)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Potter, John|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Colfox. Major William Phillp||Hurd, Sir Percy||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Iveagh, Countess of||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Cooke, Douglas||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Radford, E. A.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Copeland, Ida||Jamieson, Douglas||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Jennings, Roland||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Jesson. Major Thomas E.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Ray, Sir William|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Reld, William Allan (Derby)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Remer, John R.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonal Barnard||Kerr. Hamilton W.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Rickards, George William|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Robinson, John Roland|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Daspencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Dickle, John P.||Law, Sir Alfred||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Leckis, J. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Duckworth, George A. V,||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Duncan, Jamas A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Levy, Thomas||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tslde)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Liddall, Walter S.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Eady, Gaorge H.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Llewellin, Major John J.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llv rp'l)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Locker-Lampion, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Sandoman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Spens, William Patrick||Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Stevenson, James||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Scone, Lord||Stones, James||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Selley, Harry R.||Strauss, Edward A.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Sutcllffe, Harold||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)||Tate, Mavis Constance||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Templeton, William P.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Smithers, Waldron||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wlck-on-T.)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Soper, Richard||Train, John||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Tree, Ronald|
|Spears, Brigadier General Edward L.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Turton, Robert Hugh||Lieut. Col. Sir. A. Lambert-Ward|
|and Major George Davies.|
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I beg to move, in page 15, line 33, to leave out from "Parliament," to the end of line 22, page 16.
§ This Amendment is one of great substance, because it deals with a portion of a very important Clause, which sets out the composition of the Statutory Committee and its duties, and lays down the procedure for carrying the recommendations of that Committee through the House. The Amendment refers to that part of the Clause which deals with the procedure for carrying the draft Orders through the House. We are definitely of the opinion that these recommendations, once they have been brought forward to the House, should—since we are dealing with matters of such great substance—be debated in the same way as every alteration in benefits or contributions has been debated during the last eight or ten years. The Clause provides that, when the recommendations have been made by the Statutory Committee, they shall be submitted to the Minister and, after consultation with the Treasury, the Minister shall bring them forward in the House in the form of a draft Order. The Committee will deal with matters of great importance, matters which will affect the 12,000,000 persons who are insured under the Act. The Committee will have power not only to deal with the benefits but also with the contributions which will be paid by those persons who are in employment. Part II of the Third Schedule lays down 25 different conditions affecting insured persons which will come under review by this Committee when they are dealing with the finances of this fund. No fewer than eight Acts of Parliament can be dealt with in review by this Statutory Committee.986
§ We are definitely of the opinion that the changes which could be brought about as a result of recommendations made by this Statutory Committee are so important that they should be submitted to adequate discussion in the House. We have had some experience of draft Orders during the last two years. Draft Orders are invariably brought on at a time when almost all the other business of the House has been completed for the day. It is true that the Government have the power to bring the draft Orders in at a time which they deem suitable, but, judging by the experience of the Orders which have been submitted from time to time by the Advisory Committee dealing with the question of tariffs, these Orders are invariably brought forward after 11 o'clock. Even now, I do not think that the Minister himself could give me any promise or pledge that the draft Orders embodying the recommendations of the Statutory Committee would be brought before the House at a reasonable time. It would be left entirely for him to bring them forward at a time suitable to himself. Even when they were brought forward to the House, they would be in such a form that no Amendment could be made to them by the House. All the House would be expected to do would be to say Yea or Nay, although the matter might affect nearly 13,000,000 insured persons and, if it dealt with an increase of contribution, their employers as well. Such a draft Order could be brought forward after 11 o'clock at night, and all the House would be asked to do would be to say whether they approved or disapproved of the Order. No Amendment could be moved or accepted by the Minister.
§ We are, therefore, definitely of the opinion that the power of Parliament 987 ought not to be curbed in this way. We ask that we should have the opportunity of discussing in the proper Parliamentary manner the important changes which will be brought about in the conditions of insured persons, and should not have business rushed through in this way, which is quite alien to this institution of Parliament. I hope that the House will be jealous of its powers and of its right to adequate Debate in matters of this kind. We on this side of the House are very concerned about this usurpation of our powers, and we ask the Minister at this late hour to reconsider his attitude and allow adequate Parliamentary discussion upon any change which is likely to take place in the contributions, benefits, or conditions of payment.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
I am not sure whether I understood the hon. Member aright; if I did not, perhaps he will excuse me for interrupting. These Orders are not Orders which are merely laid on the Table and can only be discussed after 11 o'clock. They have to be affirmatively approved. Therefore, before they become operative, adequate discussion will take place upon them. They are different from the ordinary Orders which are brought before the House and merely lie on the Table and are taken after 11 o'clock. I do not know whether the hon. Member fully appreciated that.
§ Mr. HALL
I had, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to correct me upon this point. Would there be any difference between these Orders and those which are submitted, say, from the Import Duties Advisory Committee? Those Orders are debated in the House; they are submitted and they are debated, but the Minister will agree with me that, once an Order is submitted to the House by himself under this Bill, there can be no Amendment to it at all: the wish of the House must be taken in the affirmative or the negative. All we can say is Yea or Nay. That is what I attempted, perhaps in a very inadequate way, to express. The right hon. Gentleman will concede this point, that most of the Orders under the Import Duties Advisory Committee are laid on the Table at the tail-end of business, and, while it is true that there is some discussion, it 988 cannot be argued that adequate discussion can be given on important matters of this kind after 11 o'clock at night. We are definitely of the opinion that matters which would be dealt with by this Statutory Committee in the form of recommendations covering, as they would, the whole field of the conditions of payment of benefit to the unemployed, and the contributions of the workpeople and their employers, should receive adequate time for a full discussion and not be rushed through the House in the form of draft Orders, as is the case with the Import Duties Advisory Committee.
The purpose of this Amendment is to give adequate time and not to allow the Minister to decide such questions—I am not saying this out of discourtesy to the present Minister—in consultation with the Treasury and without consulting the House at all. Once his Department and the Treasury have considered the recommendations and amended them in accordance with their own desires, the House is not to be consulted at all other than to be asked whether they will approve or disapprove these Orders. This Amendment ought to appeal to every hon. Member of the House. There will be changes; that is inevitable, but when those changes take place they should be adequately discussed and sufficient time should be given for the purpose; they should not be rushed through the House as draft Orders usually are.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I beg to second the Amendment.
The explanation which the Minister attempted to give is not as satisfactory as we should like. The point we want to make is that this Clause is handing over great powers to a body of people. We tried to stop the delegation of those powers, but Parliament decided that the committee should have them. Our next plan of campaign is to try to get adequate time for the examination of the committee's proposals. We do not like to think that proposals bearing on the important matters of an increase or decrease in benefit or contribution, or the financial provisions of Clause 18, should be left merely to the Minister, to put forward any Amendments that may occur to him, and that those Amendments must be accepted or rejected as a whole at a late hour of the night. The House 989 ought to recognise that if this Statutory Committee is to enjoy any confidence in doing its work, its proposals should be examined with the full time of the House. If hon. Members on the other side of the House support this Clause, I cannot understand any one of them objecting to the proposal which we put forward. It would be a great advantage to them to be able to say, "Here we have before us these recommendations, subject to the full examination of the House of Commons; let us see what we can do with them." That would be a pleasure to the supporters of this Clause. On the other hand, we should be able to say afterwards, "We told you when you were passing this Clause that you could do nothing with it, although we gave you ample time." In place of that, the committee's proposals will probably be manoeuvred by the Government and kept away from full examination; they will be brought in at some late hour when everybody is tired out.
In view of the importance of this Bill and this particular Clause, no Member of the House should hesitate to allow full examination of any proposal brought forward. I appeal to the hon. Member who spoke on the last Amendment. He said some time ago—last week, I believe—that we had not brought in any constructive proposals at all and that our method of dealing with this Bill was entirely destructive. Surely he will not say that this afternoon. We are asking that everything done under this Measure should be brought before the House of Commons. That in itself cannot be destructive; it must fulfil the purpose of bringing the whole matter to light. On those grounds I hope that the House will see its way to giving us this Amendment.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. J. REID
I should like to say a few words about the idea of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that this is a constructive Amendment. So far as I can see, the Amendment is purely destructive. It takes away a carefully thought-out and workable method of procedure and substitutes in its place absolutely nothing at all. The Clause would be completely unworkable if this Amendment were passed. The Subsection would finish at the words "the 990 Minister shall lay the report before Parliament," and after that there is silence as to what shall be done with the report.
§ Mr. REID
If the Clause be amended as suggested, it will authorise the Committee to present a report to the Minister, and it will authorise the Minister to present the report to Parliament, but it will not authorise the Minister to do anything to give effect to the report. It will be necessary, on my understanding of the wording, to have a fresh Act of Parliament before the Minister can give effect to the report. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear!"] I have listened carefully to Speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and they have never suggested that they thought it would be necessary to have an Act of Parliament to give effect to the report. Perhaps the Minister will put us right on this matter, but my understanding of the effect of the Amendment is that it will be necessary to have a fresh Act of Parliament before anything can be done on the report at all. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that this is a destructive Amendment.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. WHITE
I have the same doubt of the practical result of the Amendment as my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid), but I entirely share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) with regard to the desirability of having the fullest discussion and the right of amendment of any proposal coming from the Statutory Committee dealing with matters of this importance. There is a further reason, which we have expressed at other stages of this Bill. The Government, in their wisdom, have produced a Bill which embodies a tripartite scheme for dealing with unemployment and poverty. As part of that scheme they are setting up two bodies, the Statutory Committee and the Unemployment Assistance Board. Both bodies are entirely independent one of the other, and there is no authority in the Bill that I can discover to co-ordinate the activities and policy of these two bodies. The Statutory Committee is able, for example, to propose a financial policy which may inflict considerable difficulty on the finances of the Unemployment Assistance Board under Part II. They might very 991 well increase the period for which benefits should be paid, which would give substantial relief to the finances and arrangements under Part II. On the other hand, they might decide to pay a higher rate of benefit for a shorter time. That would also have an important effect on the financial policy of the Unemployment Assistance Board. There is nowhere in the Bill any authority or machinery for coordinating the policy of the Board and the Statutory Committee. For that reason, I think that Parliament ought to have the fullest opportunity of being in the position of co-ordinating the policies of the two bodies which the Government in their wisdom, for reasons I have been unable to discover, have made independent one of the other.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
The point of substance brought forward by hon. Members opposite was that if the law is altered by means of an order and not by a Bill, there is no opportunity of amendment. That, I think, is the only point of substance that has been raised, because the procedure we are considering is well established, and there is no point in urging that an important order would be taken late at night. It is true that the numerous small Orders under the Import Duties Act are now customarily taken at the end of the day, but hon. Members will recollect that on occasions when there has been an Order of real importance, a whole day has been given to the discussion of it. Obviously, in any Parliament, if an Order of great importance were brought forward, the Opposition would naturally ask, and the Government would be compelled to arrange for, the Order to be taken at a suitable time of the day. Therefore, I do not think there is much practical substance in the suggestion that the thing would be rushed through late at night.
The orders under this Clause are not like an order that has to lay on the Table and automatically comes into operation unless there is a Prayer against it, but the point of substance is that we cannot amend an order, and I should have thought that hon. Members might have met the situation by a small Amendment in line 38. It says there that the Minister shall make an order embodying the recommendations in the report. I can see the possibility of the Statutory Com- 992 mittee, having examined the situation, recommending, for example, a change in the period of benefit, a change in the rates of contribution, and, conceivably, certain changes in the rates of benefit. It might well be the case that the points of their recomendations hung together, but nevertheless, there might be general agreement with regard to two points in the report but not with regard to the third. If the Minister felt that that situation was likely to develop and he attempted to deal with the situation, not by making one order, but by making two or three orders covering a particular report, that in some circumstances would be a proper power for him to possess. A scheme might be brought forward that was rather extensive and after discussion in the House there might be evident agreement on the bulk of it, but on one point violent disagreement; and the Minister might feel that disagreement was such that he could not go forward with the scheme and that he would be compelled to withdraw the whole of the order because he wished to modify one part of it.
It is the case in practice that these orders are amended, not on the Floor of the House, but by the process of the Minister withdrawing the whole order with a view to tabling a new one. I am inclined to think that the Minister might find it advantageous. It would not compel him to table more than one order, but if it seemed convenient that he should table more than one in respect of more than one report, then by the insertion in line 38 after the word "order" of the words "or orders," I believe that most of the difficulties that hon. Members opposite feel might be met. I do not know what view the Minister will take of this suggestion, but it does not impose any obligation on him. If he is willing to accept the proposal, perhaps Mr. Speaker will accept a manuscript Amendment.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. C. BROWN
Hon. Members opposite think that this is the best possible Bill to deal with unemployment, and that the machinery which it devises to deal with the changed character of that problem the best possible machinery. That is not the view of some of us who sit on these benches. Consequently we do not like the Statutory Committee or the methods by which it is proposed it should 993 function. When I say that, I ought to recall to the House the nature of the arguments that are put forward in support of setting up these extra-Parliamentary bodies. The Government are very fond of setting up these bodies, some of them with executive functions and some with merely advisory functions. One of these advisory bodies is dealt with in this Clause. They are called into being because it is suggested they will always operate without being actuated by political considerations. That is the main argument put forward in their support. I am more than ever convinced that the House ought to carry our Amendment because of an incident that occurred yesterday. We have other bodies of this kind acting in an advisory capacity, and yesterday the President of the Board of Trade, in making his statement, suggested that the Tariff Advisory Committee should at once get on with the job of considering the silk duties. Twelve months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech in the House in which, in effect, he told the Tariff Advisory Committee to leave the silk duties alone for 12 months.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
As the result of the commercial negotiations taking place with Japan, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote a letter to the Advisory Committee explaining the position, and suggested that as he could not give effect to any recommendations that they might make, it would be wise to suspend their investigations.
§ Mr. BROWN
That is the point I was trying to make. You set up these extra-Parliamentary bodies, the argument being that they would not be actuated by political considerations. In a case of the Import Duties Committee, we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer acting in such a way as to stay the action of an extra-Parliamentary body and to suspend its activities in a particular respect for 12 months. We have another Minister coming to the House yesterday and telling them to get on with the job because of a certain situation which has arisen. It is conceivable that this Statutory Committee, functioning in the sphere of un- 994 employment insurance, could equally be actuated by ministerial statements in this House, perhaps on very important matters, and it could make orders largely in keeping with those ministerial statements. Those Orders would in due course come before the House and under the proposed procedure would get very little consideration.
We are, I think, entitled to put forward this Amendment and to suggest that if it is carried it will ensure that the House of Commons will be able to give more adequate discussion. We know it cannot amend these Orders, but the Amendment will ensure that the House will be able to give more adequate consideration to reports and Orders which may have been actuated by Ministerial statements, and which would not be free, as it is suggested, from political considerations. The Government have always means at their disposal of influencing such bodies as this, and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, still loyal to some of the best traditions of the Liberal party, in spite of his doubts about the technicalities of the Amendment, wants to retain the control of adequate discussion in the House of Commons on these important matters.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment stated that the Amendment raises questions of far-reaching importance, and that having regard to the whole scheme of the Bill it was impossible to over-estimate its importance. That is perfectly true. If this Amendment were carried, it would completely destroy the machinery which the Bill sets up to secure the financial solvency of the fund. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid) pointed out that the effect of the Amendment is to leave out from the word "Parliament," in line 33, to the end of the Clause. The Amendment, therefore, would exclude the provision under which, if the Minister does not accept the proposals of the Committee for securing the solvency of the fund, he shall make proposals whichin his opinion have substantially the same effect on the financial condition of the Unemployment Fund as that estimated by the report as being the effect of the amendments recommended.995 The whole structure and purpose of this part of the Bill is to ensure that the fund is solvent and self-supporting. If Part I fails to secure that and to ensure, as we hope for all time while the Act is in operation, that the Fund is solvent and self-supporting, then one of the main purposes of the Bill will be lost. Quite clearly, this object of maintaining the solvency of the fund will not be achieved unless the finances are kept under constant review and unless there is a deliberate obligation—which would be eliminated if this Amendment were carried—on the Minister of Labour to take prompt action when the expenditure exceeds the income.
Why did we come to this conclusion? Why is it that we thought it was necessary to put in this Clause, which has so far-reaching an effect? The reason is that, the whole history of unemployment insurance, certainly since 1920, has been that Government after Government have failed to face up to an unpleasant and possibly an unpopular task when the fund was receding into insolvency and instead of being an Insurance Fund was degentrating into a "dole" fund. It is to prevent that state of things that we have inserted this Clause. The observations of the Royal Commission on this point are so relevant that I would draw the attention of the House to them. The Royal Commission, it must be remembered once again—and I make no apology for reminding the House of the fact—was set up by my predecessor and the last Government, and its terms of reference were to make recommendations with regard to the insurance scheme,its future scope, the provisions which it should contain and the means by which it may be made solvent and self-supporting.The Royal Commission recommended just exactly what we have incorporated in the Bill, and they did that for reasons which are set out in paragraphs 288 and 289. I will not read the whole of those paragraphs but only the relevant parts. It is pointed out that under the existing law, under Section 15 of the Act of 1920, it was for the Minister if the Treasury so directed, to make modifications by Order to ensure the solvency of the fund. But every Government since 1920 refused to face up to the situation arid to face up to what would probably be 996 an unpopular task. The result was that in 1921 we began the pernicious system of borrowing, which went on until 1931. It is to prevent a recurrence of that practice and to ensure that we do not delude ourselves by calling the scheme "insurance" when it is nothing of the kind, and to ensure that our insurance scheme shall be an insurance scheme in reality as well as in name, that we have inserted this provision. Let me remind the House of what the Royal Commission said when pointing out that no Minister had adopted the powers that he had under Section 15 of the Act of 1920. They said :Throughout the period 1920–1932 we know of no occasion on which this procedure was acted upon. The atrophy of these Ministerial powers may have come about because amending legislation was constantly needed on subjects other than finance, and it was the line of least resistance to include financial proposals within a Bill which was necessary in any case.A little further down the Report says :Each successive Government has made changes in the scheme, which have been determined less by the need for the careful balancing of income and expenditure than by a desire to attract, or do as little as possible to repel, electoral support. As we have said (in paragraph 198) it may well be that from time to time the interests of industry, both employers and workers, have been sacrificed to the interests of political expediency.Further, they say :On this ground alone, we have reached the conclusion that there is need for an impartial body outside the immediate political arena which has the duty of keeping the unemployment insurance scheme constantly under review, and of suggesting changes in the scheme which will maintain its finances upon a sound basis.What is recommended in the Report in that respect is incorporated in the Bill. Later in the same paragraph, 289, the Report says :It seems to us that only by this means is there any assurance that full consideration will be given to the financial effects of legislative changes in the scheme and adjustment of the finances of the scheme as unemployment fluctuates.That is the reason why this Clause and these provisions have been inserted, and if they are taken out, as this Amendment seeks to take them out, the whole value of this part of the Bill goes. I cannot for a moment accept an Amendment which has that effect.
I appreciate all that the hon. Member said with regard to the procedure as to 997 Orders. I can only say that so far as I am concerned, and I give this assurance, the House will have the fullest opportunity of discussing any Orders for which I am responsible. The hon. Member asked: "Why do it by Order? Why not do it by Act of Parliament? Why not bring in a Bill?" It may well be, and I hope it will be, that the Statutory Committee may say: "The time has now come when the balance at our disposal is such that we are justified in recommending a reduction of contributions." It may be that they may say: "We are justified in making some alteration in the rates of benefit." It may be that they will say:" The funds at our disposal justify some further relief to the contributors." The result of the procedure we propose will be that if the Statutory Committee come to that conclusion and make that recommendation an Order can be brought before the House at once, and we can obtain the approval of the House or rejection by the House. In that way we are saved from the necessarily cumbrous procedure of an ad hoc Bill to deal perhaps with one specific point: "Shall contributions be reduced?" or "Shall benefits be altered?" possibly to the advantage of the recipients.
The Bill is deliberately designed to put the fund permanently on a solvent, self-supporting basis, and it is designed to do away with the necessity which has been experienced so often in past years of attempting to bolster up an insolvent fund by borrowing with the results that we have seen. I hope the House will not countenance the acceptance of an Amendment which would destroy the whole value of this part of the Bill.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
On this side of the House we have expressed disagreement with the main principles of the Bill, and that disagreement is more fully justified after the last speech of the right hon. Gentleman than ever before. He has said that it was his intention and the intention of the Government to bring forward a Bill to make the scheme of insurance, in his euphomistic phrase, solvent and self-supporting, which, in effect, has been to remove the scheme of insurance, the control of insurance and the conditions of insurability away from the control of this House. It is because this Bill effectively does that that we have 998 brought forward this Amendment, which was moved with great directness and frankness by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall). The right hon. Gentleman says—I am paraphrasing what he said—that the purpose of the Bill is to enable a future Government to face up to the emergency conditions and to keep the fund solvent and self-supporting. He denounced past Governments, including Governments of which he has been a Minister, for not facing up to the position. Therefore, he says: "I propose to set up some body, other than Parliament, to deal with the matter. Parliament has been unworthy of its responsibility." The Government with which he was connected failed in its executive responsibility and he says: "Let us get some body that will do the work, some body of people who cannot be held responsible, some body who, in the Minister's words—again I am paraphrasing—will not be subject to pressure from the electorate." Since when has this House condemned attention to the demands of the electorate? Do the Conservative party stand for that? Do the present Government pay no heed to the demands of their supporters? There are a good many rumours about, and from the discussions we have had in the House regarding the approaches to the Tariff Advisory Committee, we are not quite sure that even the outside bodies which the Government set up are independent of pressure.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I do not think I made myself quite clear. The whole object is not what I think the hon. Member represented it to be; it is to compel the House of Commons to face up to the situation. It is the House of Commons that has to take the responsibility of facing up to the situation and not of riding away from it.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
That is very ingenuous, and so disarming is the right-hon. Gentleman's ingenuousness that I cannot quarrel with him, but if it were anybody other than the right hon. Gentleman I should be very much more dubious indeed of the implications of what he has said to the House. The right hon. Gentleman stands nakedly—figuratively speaking—and unashamedly for a dictatorship. The right hon. Gentleman is taking steps to take away from the innocent-looking Members on that side of 999 the House and the innocent Members on this side of the House the right to examine the future legislation of this insurance scheme, which will affect the lives of 13,000,000 insured persons, and if one multiplies that 13,000,000 by two or more, there are 30,000,000 men, women and children who will have their fortunes and circumstances influenced and affected by-whatever is to be done by this Statutory Committee. This Statutory Committee is to have extensive powers, if not of life and death, at least of welfare or misery, over the lives of a very large number of people, and the right hon. Gentleman is only confessing timidity on his own part and the part of his colleagues in the Government when he says that they wish to remove these matters from the controversy of this House. After all, Parliament lives to argue and to contend; if Parliament does not exist for that, what does it exist for? If Parliament does not exist to respond to the popular demand for supervision of popular affairs, then we have mistaken the purpose of Parliament altogether.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the report of the Royal Commission, but I do not think he was justified in using paragraphs 289 and 290. There are certain recommendations there, but they are that the Statutory Committee to be set up should present an annual report on the condition of the fund and make certain recommendations each year which may assist Parliament and the Minister in determining what changes, if any, may be required in subsequent legislation. After all, it is legislation. We cannot escape legislation by these Orders in Council. It is legislation, but nobody yet on that side of the House and no Minister dare stand up and say that these changes, affecting the rates of benefit and of contribution, should be made without consultation with Parliament. Parliament has to give its consent, but the right hon. Gentleman says that this is going to give Parliament the right to give its consent in a more direct way. I submit that Parliament is not going to give its consent, because Parliament is to be told what it is to do, and that is not consent. Parliament is to be merely a registering authority at the command of the right hon. Gentleman. There will be no possi- 1000 bility of any alteration or change in these Orders. The Minister has made that quite clear.
Now let us see what the Bill proposes, because it is vitally important. Members of Parliament, in passing this Bill, are depriving themselves and those who are to suceeed them, who will be entirely different people, we hope, but they will be the Parliamentary successors of hon. Members who are going to do this thing to-day, of certain rights, and even though the hon. Members who now face me have no intention of coming back to this House again after another election, they ought to leave the House in order, for those who are to follow them. They must not sign away, they must not sell, the birthright of Parliament, as is going to be done if this Bill is carried through unaltered. In the first part of this Clause, in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4), are laid down the conditions under which the Statutory Committee is to do certain things, and really we do not quarrel with the setting up of the Statutory Committee, provided that it is a Committee with statutory authority to do certain things, but not a committee which is to dismiss Parliament itself. We do not for the moment wish to quarrel very much with what is proposed until we come to the point where, the Statutory Committee having made its investigation, having kept in close contact with the operations of the fund, and having made its report to the Minister, the Report has been laid before Parliament; then we say, "You should stop there." This Bill proceeds to do, from that point forward, something which the House should not permit to be done. This Sub-section says that the Minister shall lay the report before Parliament, and then it goes on to say:and in a case where the report contains recommendations for the amendment of the Unemployment Insurance Acts or of any previous order made under this section, shall, after consultation with the Treasury, lay before Parliamentand so on.
The Statutory Committee is to make a report, which is to be laid before Parliament. We shall all see the report, and at that point it will be public property, but that will not be the final form of the draft Order which is to be laid before Parliament. The Minister will then 1001 start to work on the report, and he will take into consultation the Treasury. They will go away from this House to some little office of their own, and they will have people to advise them and to consult with them. We shall not be parties to that consultation at all. The whole House will be utterly ignored, and in two months' time they will have hatched a draft Order. They will place the draft Order on the Table of the House, but Members of this House will have nothing to do with the shaping of the draft Order or with its terms. They will be told to sit here like nice, obedient Members of the Opposition, and the Government will put the draft Order on the Box and say why they have altered it. In paragraph (b) of this Sub-section (5) the Minister is expected to state, in so far as the Amendments proposed by the draft Order differ from those recommended by the report, the reasons for the difference. The Statutory Committee is to make its recommendations. The Minister and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who are both facing me at this moment, will take those recommendations away, and they will work on them. Then they will bring forward their draft Order, which may, and probably will, vary from the recommendations, and they will be expected to say why they differ. They reserve to themselves the right to amend, the right to exercise their judgment upon the recommendations, but this House has not got that right.
Back comes the draft Order to this House, but nobody in this House is worthy of making any suggestion for amending the recommendations. That is to be denied to the wisest, most experienced, and most public-spirited Members of this House. The only people who have any right to make suggestions are the two Ministers opposite. They will then bring the finished product, the draft Order, before the House of Commons, and they will tell the House of Commons, "You swallow this. This is a concoction of ours which we think is justified because the Statutory Committee has told us so." We too shall have seen the report of the Statutory Committee, and from that report we may have drawn entirely different conclusions from those of the two Ministers, but we are not to be allowed to express our recommendations at all. 1002 We are told to sit here, and all we can do, presumably, is to make faces at the two Ministers, provided we are within the Rules of Order. We can express our dissent, we can express total abhorrence of the new Order, but all that is left us to do is to vote in the "No" Lobby, knowing that there are enough obedient Members behind the Government to overwhelm us by going into the other Lobby. That is a travesty of Parliamentary procedure, an unwarranted and unwarrantable assault on the constitution, and I appeal to hon. Members to support our Amendment.
One hon. Member said that we were taking something away from the Bill and putting nothing in its place. That is true. We propose taking this part to which we refer away from the Bill, and what are we going to put in its place? Well, we leave Parliament to take its place. We take away from the Statutory Committee powers that do not belong to it, and while we allow the Statutory Committee to carry on its investigations and make its computations as to the needs of the fund, and its recommendations to the Minister, and while we allow the Minister to present us with those recommendations, we shall consider them and try to understand all that the Statutory Committee wish to tell us—we shall try to understand all the changes they propose—but we refuse to be tied in advance, and we wish to pass this Amendment to leave out the words of which we complain, reserving to ourselves and to those who may sit here after us in this part of the House and those who may sit after hon. Members opposite in that part of the House, reserving to Parliament in short, the rights of Members and of Parliament itself to amend any and all of the proposals that come before it.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENS
It has been pointed out that what the Opposition are trying to do is to insist that every alteration that is required in the present regulations affecting the Insurance Fund shall have in the future to be carried out by a Bill in this House of Commons, and that is the intention of the Amendment. I would remind the House that really there has hardly been a first-class Measure in this century where it has not been necessary for Parliament to hand over, either to some body or to some Minister or 1003 some Department, the power of legislating, using that word in its broadest sense, either as regards machinery or the details of carrying out that Measure. Many of us have been watching very jealously and carefully the machinery which Parliament has selected for each particular case, because we know only too well that on numerous occasions during this century Parliament has handed over to the Departments the right of making decisions and introducing new rules and regulations which vitally affect hundreds and thousands of individuals, and Parliament has kept no control of any sort or kind over those rules and regulations.
Various systems have been adopted in Acts of Parliament, and I congratulate the Minister most heartily on the machinery which he would introduce into this Bill. I quite agree that if hon. Members opposite say that nothing is to be done as regards previous insurance legislation in this country, including the first part of this Bill, except by an Act of Parliament, then they will disagree with what I am going to say root and branch. I am not going to argue about that. The case made by the Minister seems to me absolutely convincing to anybody, that if the Statutory Committee is going to be of any use at all, its recommendations must be capable of being carried into law with the least possible delay. At the same time, I should have been the very first to object to any system unless I were satisfied that the control of this House was maintained as regards their recommendations.
With great respect to the hon. Member, the last speech to which we have listened was a travesty of what this Clause really provides. What happens is this. The Statutory Committee make a report. This is made public. We all know what it is. Just as many commissions or other bodies when they make a report think they can assist things by attaching to it a draft Bill, we are, by this Bill, encouraging the Statutory Committee to assist things by making their recommendations in the form of a draft Order. But just as the report of a Royal Commission or any other committee comes before the Department responsible, so that report and that draft Order come before the Minister mentioned in this Clause, and his duty is to bring forward 1004 this draft Order, if it is in a proper form to be brought before Parliament and to be made part of the insurance law of the land; if not, it is his duty to suggest such Amendments as he thinks fit and to put the Order, as so amended, with his reasons for the Amendment, before Parliament.
On every occasion we get the report and the draft Order suggested by the committee, and the Minister's Amendment and his explanation of it. Then the matter is brought before Parliament, and each House is asked affirmatively to approve the Order so brought before it. If there were anything in the Order to which the bulk of the House objected, it is perfectly clear that the Order would not go through as it was brought before us, and the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) is perfectly right in saying the Amendments would not be dealt with on the Floor of the House, which is not the best method in matters of detail, but there would be a full Debate on the draft Order and opportunities for Members to express their views; and if the Order were not in a proper form, it would be brought back in a form the House would approve. If it were approved by the majority it would go through and hon. Members opposite no doubt hope that they will be able to bring in Orders that they can push through Parliament. That is the procedure in this case, a procedure which, I submit, combines the two things we want, namely, not legislation uncontrolled by this House from outside bodies, but a machinery by which an outside body, whose sole duty is to have regard to the details of some first-class Measure, will be in a position to put their recommendations clearly before this House, and this House alone, with another place, will have the responsibility of making those recommendations law or not.
I suggest that this is an infinitely better procedure than that to which we have been accustomed in the past, of handing over to an outside body the right of making Orders over which this House, to all intents and purposes, has no control. If I may deal with one point of some importance which came from these benches it is suggested there is nothing in the Bill by which what a body in Part I is doing can be co-ordinated with what a body under Part II is doing. With great 1005 respect, the co-ordinating person is of course the Minister who is responsible for both Parts, for the Orders made by this body and the rules and regulations made by the other. But for the moment the point we are on is the control by this House of the Orders under this Clause, and I hope that the House will adopt the machinery put forward here as a machinery which, I think, does exactly what we want, namely, provide the control of this House over the recommendations of an outside body.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
We have heard an eloquent and moving appeal in favour of this new Parliamentary procedure, and I think it should be said from these benches what our attitude is. We listened with great respect to the Minister in his very right appeal in favour of making the Insurance Fund solvent. He quoted rather effectively from the Royal Commission. As a matter of fact, a Royal Commission usually is very sound, but this Commission said that Parliaments tend to adopt the course which is politically easier and are less conscious of the need of maintaining sound principles of social servce, and therefore give increased payments in less exacting conditions. The Royal Commission, in other words, placed the responsibility for these increased inroads into the Insurance Funds generally on Parliament and the Government. Anybody who knows the procedure of Parliament knows the responsibility must be with the Government of the day. We have had an eloquent description of how every successive Government has equally been responsible for pushing burdens on that fund that did not rightly belong to it. But Parliament cannot initiate. The initiative has to be with the Government. The procedure of this House, rightly or wrongly, is that no private Member can initiate expenditure. We have suffered from it in these Debates. During the Committee and Report stages Members have had ideas that they would like to see embodied in the Bill—one special example is that of the children's allowances—but owing to this historical tradition that only from the Treasury bench can proposals that involve increased expenditure be initiated, Parliament has never been able, private Members have never been able, the Op- 1006 position has never been able, to increase expenditure.
Therefore, the responsibility for extravagance, for bad finance, for bad management of this fund cannot rightly be laid upon Parliament as such. In so far, of course, as we have supported the Government of the day in their evil doings, we may share responsibility, but what we are anxious about on this side of the House is complete control on the one hand against the Government going in for extravagant, unsound financial proposals, and, on the other hand, curtailing the rights of the beneficiaries under this fund. The Minister suggested that it might be possible under this particular Clause for the recommendation to go forward for proposals to reduce the contribution to employers and employed. That is a very important principle of policy, vital to the whole system. It may be a very good thing, but the Members of Parliament, responsible for the traditions of this House, want to be able to get control over such vital principles affecting our electors. The House of Commons might not be in favour of that particular method of spending the surplus. It might be a Conservative House of Commons, which would rather, as the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) suggested, see the surplus used for building up a reserve. Or, we might be in favour, instead of reducing contributions, of increasing benefits; but the House of Commons would be paralysed under this procedure; it could only say "Aye" or "Nay." The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) made what I think was a good suggestion, that instead of the Orders being put forward en bloc in one Order which we cannot amend or alter, the Minister should have the power of putting them separately so that each can be negatived or approved on its merits.
I do not like this particular Amendment, and I think the Mover and Seconder will agree that it is a rather clumsy way of asserting the principle that they are presumably after, of maintaining control by Parliament; but we attach great importance to keeping a hold over the Government of the day and over this new Commission which is going to be responsible for the administration of this fund, so that, when it comes forward 1007 with its proposals, Parliament which represents the people concerned, and affords the only opportunity of the insured persons expressing their views, should be able thoroughly to criticise and examine not only en bloc but in detail. The hon. and learned Member for Ash-ford (Mr. Spens) grew quite eloquent over this new machinery. I can understand the hon. Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who visualises a new Parliament of action such as Sir Oswald Mosley might favour, doing the same—do it now! Do it quickly, without examination without wasting time, without the clumsy procedure of discussion! Do it first and think after! That is the kind of thing we do not favour. We want to get control of the House of Commons over this most important part of our social system, unemployment insurance, and for that reason I do not like the provisions of this Clause, which we consider provide inadequate opportunities for criticism and discussion of something very vital to the people of the country.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I want to deal in a few minutes with the statements of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). I think he was rather optimistic as to what really happens in the House. If he had been longer in the House I think he would know more of what the procedure is like. We are, as he says, owing to the crowded state of our business, under the necessity of having legislation not entirely in a Bill but by ministerial orders, and the question as to exactly what is to be done with these ministerial Orders is a very serious one. If any one suggests that our present system, or the system proposed here, whereby the Orders are brought forward, generally as the hon. and learned Member recognises at a very inconvenient hour of the evening, and the House is offered a conglomeration of proposals to which it must say "Aye" or "Nay"—if he really thinks that this is giving the House adequate control, I think he will learn better later on.
§ Mr. SPENS
I know the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair. I was pointing out that this procedure, which requires an affirmative vote of this House and the other House, is infinitely better than the old procedure which was commonly 1008 followed until some years ago, when orders were simply put on the Table and became law unless somebody petitioned against them. That was the point I was making. If this machinery is adopted, it is the fault of the House itself if we do not adequately and properly debate matters of this importance.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am quite aware of what the hon. and learned Member said, but he has missed the point. Whether this House has to approve in a negative way or a positive way, the whole point is that we have got either to take the Order or to leave it, because there is no possibility of amending it. Almost every evening, we get these orders. The Board of Trade are extraordinarily prolific in this matter. An order will contain good things and bad things, but the Government will say "You must take it or leave it." The hon. and learned Member suggests that, if the House does not like it, it will reject the order. When does the House do that? Does he really suggest that this House, as composed at present, ever rejects anything in the way of an order brought forward by the Government? Of course it does not. What we require is a proper examination of proposals.
The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) thought fit to say something with regard to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). Unfortunately, I have had to make this complaint previously against another Member of the Liberal party, who made precisely the same point. I expect it is sent out from one or other of the head offices of the Liberal party. The one person who has made detailed proposals to deal with this form of legislation by order, so that the House may keep control and consider these matters in detail is the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, but the Liberal party are quite content to take up a catch word without ever trying to learn. An hon. Member outside has been saying of the Liberals that they are extraordinarily good at criticism but never produce anything constructive. He was an agricultural Member, and he went on to say "The Liberals never really lay an egg at all; if they do lay an egg you never know whose farm-yard it will be in; and if you do get it, it will probably be addled." The Liberal party are very 1009 great on prating about things, but never get much farther than crowing. We here well know of the unsatisfactory way in whch these orders are got through. What is essential is that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its views and have the right to amend an order, and not be faced with the alternatives of accepting or rejecting it. We want proper control by this House, and to suggest that the House has proper control merely because an affirmative Resolution must be passed is to suggest what is not really the case.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
It seems to me that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has really answered most of the criticisms which have been made from the Labour Front Bench and his own benches, because on any main problem of importance the final decision, as he says, rests with the Minister. What difference would it make if we were to have a Bill, as I understand is suggested by the Labour party? They say that a Bill should be drawn up based upon the recommendations of the Committee, and that would give an opportunity for a minute examination. It seems to me that the Debate has gone over a great many subjects which are far beyond the point which the hon. Member who moved the Amendment had in his mind, and that is the question of making amendments to the recommendations of the committee. I agree that we are here making a change in the customs of the House, but if there is any question of vital importance the matter has finally to be decided by the votes of the House. Hon. Members opposite have said that such an Order would never be defeated, but we know from the history of the House that when a matter of supreme importance comes up the existence of the Government may become at stake. Therefore, if we are never going to have the Government defeated, it proves that the questions which will come up will be of such secondary importance that the future of the Government is not considered to be vital.
This is an occasion when the House might very well make an experiment. Everybody is discussing the waste of time in the House of Commons and the lack of facilities for putting business through quickly, and I do not see why hon. Mem- 1010 bers who think something should be done to reform Parliament should not take the opportunity of finding out whether this may not prove to be a useful reform. One recognises that it does take away certain powers of criticism which would be left to the House if the proposal of hon. Members opposite were agreed to, but, on the other hand, one must admit that there would be an enormous saving of time; and finally, as the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green has said, the decision will be the decision of the Minister and the Government of the day. Therefore, I am very pleased personally to support this proposal, as I feel it is an important step in what is needed, and that is the acceleration of business in the House of Commons.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. GLUCKSTEIN
I would not have intervened in the Debate had I not felt that it was time that someone exposed what I can only describe as the hypocrisy of hon. Members on the benches below me. This Amendment might conceivably have been moved from any quarter of the House rather than theirs, and I think that I should then have gone into the Division Lobby silently, as usual, had it not been that the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) took the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) severely to task for saying something about the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). There is a saying that the pitcher may go once too often to the well, and the hon. Member has gone once too often to the well, at any rate for my peace of mind, or for the purposes of accuracy. I felt that something of the sort might occur, and for purposes of greater accuracy, if I may borrow the phrase, I have obtained for the sum of 5s. a copy of a volume entitled, "Problems of the Socialist Government." This work has been so frequently misquoted by various Members of the House on this very point of legislation by order that I think it may be necessary for the members of the Socialist party to have a meeting to discover which of their leaders they propose to follow, because I understand now that there must be some dispute between them, that is if I read aright the language used by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol.
I will not worry the House with more than three quotations from this monu- 1011 mental work, but they ought to be sufficient to satisfy the House once and for all that the Government's Clause, now represented by the Opposition as a mischievous and revolutionary proposal, has the approval, the solemn approval, in no less than three places, of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol. It may be that other hon. Members of the House think that that opinion is right, but it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members below me, in the circumstances, to move the Amendment which is on the Paper to-night. On page 43, he is dealing with the panic which will arise at the arrival of a Socialist administration, and then follows an account of the steps the Government ought to take straight away:The Government's first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment and place before it an Emergency Powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day. This Bill will be wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by Ministerial Order. These Orders must be incapable of challenge in the courts or in any way except in the House of Commons.There is no mention there of any Amendment being allowed.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Member is quoting, of course, perfectly correctly, but he is quoting from suggestions made for dealing with an actual emergency.
§ Mr. GLUCKSTEIN
I must proceed, and I cannot allow the hon. Member to put me off. I go on to page 51. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol is there rather more constructive. If the hon. Member for Limehouse had waited until I had read this passage he would have seen that there is not much force in talking about emergencies and crises. He would have found on page 51 that there is approval of the habit—I personally regret it—which has overtaken this House, of legislation by order. The hon. and learned Member says that there are two sorts of legislation, two categories—Acts of Parliament dealing in the main with the more important matters and with principles "—whilethe detailed provisions for the administration of particular services are laid down 1012 in Provisional Orders, Orders in Council or Statutory Rules and Orders. Such Orders are made by the responsible Ministers under the authority of the Cabinet and are subject to either negative or positive Parliamentary approval. This method of legislation has been gradually developed until under the present Government the most important matters, such as taxation of the subject by import duties, have come to be dealt with by administrative Orders.I would point out to the hon. Member for Limehouse that it is not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Read it all"]—I have come to the end of the paragraph. The hon. and learned Member does not go on to say: "a course of which I heartily disapprove and of which my party will see that there is no recurrence."
Perhaps the best passage is found on page 56, in which, having offered a constructive plan for dealing with the unfortunate citizens of this country in one Bill to be produced at the beginning of the year, he goes on to say:It is idle, once Parliament has decided upon a certain course of action, to discuss its wisdom again and again. It will probably be advisable to pass this Bill before the beginning of each year, that is in an Autumn Session.I invite hon. Members' attention to this passage:Once the Bill is passed, most of its provisions can be given more detailed legislative shape in ministerial Orders, which will be submitted formally to Parliament for approval.In the face of those quotations I hope that hon. Members of the Opposition will once and for all forbear to tell us that one of their leaders does not approve of the particular course which they have been condemning in no unmeasured language, and I hope that when the time comes they will come into the Lobby with me against this Amendment.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The only good thing in the speech to which we have just listened is that it has advertised a book that would be worth while reading by everybody in the country. The interpretation that has been placed upon it by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Gluckstein) would certainly not be the interpretation which the public would put either on the passages or on the book as a whole. The second passage quoted by the hon. Member 1013 appeared to bear the very opposite construction to the one which he put upon it. If he and I disagree to the extent to which we do, it would be well if other hon. Members could read the book. I hope that the Press will give wide publicity to the name of the book, and in that way the book will get such an advertisement that its sales will go up, and the advantage to the public, for whose interest the book was written, will be considerable.
In regard to the Amendment, whether hon. Members opposite approve or disapprove of certain things, the public outside will still judge them as far as they are capable of making a judgment. The public will ask whether this is a reasonable method to adopt, and whether it is going to be fair in its workings to the people whom it will affect. The public in my constituency will ask themselves whether the Members that they have chosen ought not to have an opportunity of determining whether the recommendations made by this or any other statutory committee ought to be made known, and whether every Member of Parliament ought not to have an equal right with any other Member in determining whether recommendations should be amended.
There may be hon. Members with very much greater experience than I, and there certainly are Members with a very much better education than I have had, and they may consider themselves better qualified than I to decide whether a recommendation of a statutory committee ought to be amended, and, if so, how. I do not think that there can be any doubt that the Amendment which we are now discussing is one that would be fair and equitable, and that would give every hon. Member an opportunity of amending any Order that may be made. The Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary, as well as other Members of the Government, may consider that they alone have the qualities to enable them to determine what it is best for Parliament to do. Apparently they take that view, and consequently they are bringing in this Bill in its present form. It may be that Members on this side of the House who are now in opposition will occupy the Government benches, and that they may take the same point of view. I 1014 hope that they will not. I hope that they will continue to take the point of view which they have always taken in the past, that that which is right is the thing to do. If they believe in democracy, as they do, they should approach every question of importance in a way that will give the greatest opportunity to those who represent the constituencies to express opinion, either by Amendment or in any other way, upon anything that may be brought before Parliament.
The Government will get a majority now. Members who are not in the House, and who have not heard a word of the discussion, will vote, as was said by an hon. and learned Member opposite a few minutes ago. The Order will be reviewed, and the Minister of the day, whoever he may be, will determine, in consultation with his friends in the Government, whether it is to be amended or not. Then the rest of us, like mere puppets, will be allowed to say by vote in the Lobby whether the Minister is right or whether he is wrong, but we shall not be able to say that he is right in part and wrong in part. We shall not be able, by any Amendment that we may desire to put down, to say that it would be better in the interests of the people concerned that part of the Order should be passed and the other part should not be passed. No doubt it would be impossible to make any submission to the Minister on this matter. He is too superior. He and his friends in the Government have all the knowledge in regard to these matters, and he has behind him that tame majority who will follow him into the Lobby, right or wrong. But to the rest of the House one can at least make the submission that they are giving away those rights which were given to them by their constituents, of coming here into Parliament and saying that this Parliament is at any rate, as it has been described in the past, a democratic Parliament to which they are sent to maintain the democratic principle. I submit that hon. Members, if they fail to do that, will be failing in their duty to the people who sent them here.
§ 8.38 p.m.
Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFIFTH
I think it would have been kinder of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) not to have mentioned the hon. and learned Member 1015 for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) in the course of this Debate, because it seemed to have an over-exciting effect on Members above the Gangway and to give rise to a good deal of irrelevant discussion. But I am surprised that the mention of the hon. and learned Member should have caused the Deputy Leader of the Labour party to make the remarkable statement that the Liberal party had never produced any results—had never laid any eggs, I think he said. He might have remembered that, with all its faults, the Unemployment Insurance Scheme, which has been built up by the work of many Governments, has been depended upon by the unemployed of this country for many years, and that they would have been much worse off without it than they are to-day. Moreover, the provisions with regard to old age pensions and health insurance, which were opposed at the time by other parties, have formed a framework upon which every successive Government since the War has leaned in dealing with the difficulties of the day. Those were all eggs laid by the Liberal party, and I think the hon. Gentleman might have remembered that.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
I really cannot follow the hon. Gentleman into the source, in the Lobby or wherever it may be, from which he gets this interesting tale, but I presumed, since he related it from the Front Opposition Bench, that he would take the responsibility for what he said, and I was pointing out that it was a rather unfortunate remark.
As regards the Amendment, I feel that in a measure it is unsatisfactory, because it cuts off the Clause at a certain point and leaves nothing in its place; but I should certainly be the last to blame the official Opposition for having adopted that procedure at the present time. I understand that what they desire to do is to express their disapproval of the undemocratic machinery proposed by the Government, and, whatever some of their leaders may have said, if they are coming out now on behalf of democratic machinery, I am entirely with them. The 1016 Amendment raises an all-important point. When we have been dealing with matters connected with unemployment insurance, it has happened again and again that proposals which have been put forward and insufficiently discussed, but which have been regarded by Parliamentary draftsmen as adequate to the situation, have been found in the end to lead to entirely unexpected results. In view of the repeated experiences of that kind, I think it is important that Members of the House who are constantly in touch with the unemployed should be given greater power than merely the power to say whether on the whole they think that the Government's proposals had better be carried out or not. We have all our contributions to make from our knowledge of the detail work of this and previous Acts, and, unless we have the power ourselves actually to frame the machinery under which the unemployed will be dealt with, we are not really performing what is after all one of our most important Parliamentary functions.
I believe that this machinery which is now adopted by the Government, although doubtless intended to produce rapid action, which in itself is a good thing, is defeating a more valuable object still, namely, the control of the people through their elected representatives over the manner in which the most vital elements in their lives are dealt with. I think, therefore, that any proposal which leaves out the power of Amendment is going to lead to a great many mistakes which could have been avoided by the collective wisdom of this House, which is returned here to make its contributions on matters of that kind. To reduce our powers to a mere "Aye" or "No" is not doing justice to the purpose for which the House is elected, and, therefore, although the precise form of the present Amendment may be open to objection, I believe that in principle it is right, and, as a protest against the method which the Government are adopting, I shall certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 47.1019
|Division No. 249.]||AYES.||[8.43 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Graves, Marjorle||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Grigg, Sir Edward||Petherirk, M.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Grimston, R. V.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Apsley, Lord||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Potter, John|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolle||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hales, Harold K.||Pybus, Sir Percy John|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Harbord, Arthur||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th. C.)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Bernays, Robert||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ray, Sir William|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Blindell, James||Hopkinson, Austin||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Boulton, W. W,||Hornby, Frank||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Horsbrugh, Florence||Remer, John R.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rickards, George William|
|Braithwalte, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ross, Ronald C.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hurd, Sir Percy||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Burnett, John George||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield. B'tside)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Jamleson, Douglas||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Castlereagh, viscount||Jennings, Roland||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Scone, Lord|
|Christie, James Archibald||Lamb. Sir Joseph Quinton||Selley, Harry R.|
|Clarke, Frank||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Law Sir Alfred||Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A D.||Lackle, J. A.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Colvllie, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Lewis. Oswald||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Liddall, Walter S.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Lindsay. Noel Ker||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Llewellin, Major John J.||Soper, Richard|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Loftus, Pierce C.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Mabane, William||Spender-Clay. Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Spens. William Patrick|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||McKie, John Hamilton||Stevenson, James|
|Crossley, A. C.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Stones, James|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Macqulsten, Frederick Alexander||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Denville, Alfred||Magnay, Thomas||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Maitland, Adam||Templeton, William P.|
|Dlckie, John P.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hertford)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Martin, Thomas B.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Eady, George H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Todd, A. L. S. (Klngswinford)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Mills. Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mitcheson. G. G.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Morelng, Adrian C.||Word, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeo[...].|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Munro, Patrick||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Nation, Brigadier-General J. I. H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Wills, Wilfrid D,|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Pearson, William G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Peat, Charles U.||Mr. Womersley and Lord Erskine.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. w.(Orkney & Ztl'nd)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hicks, Ernest George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||West, F. R.|
|Crlpps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||White, Henry Graham|
|Daggar, George||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John Jamas||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEniee, Valentine L.||Mr. Groves and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Griffith, F. Klngsley (Mlddlesbro', W.)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|