HC Deb 08 May 1934 vol 289 cc1029-55

Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Are you calling the Amendment that is on the Paper in my name, in page 31, line 17?


No; I understand that Mr. Speaker has not selected that Amendment.

9.26 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to move, in page 31, line 34, after the second "Board," to insert: after consultation with the councils of any county or county borough concerned in the administration of each such area. It would be an advantage if county councils and county borough councils were consulted in this case, and I therefore move to put it in the Bill.


May I ask exactly what this Amendment means? The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not given us any explanation of it, and I do not know that he will be allowed to speak a second time, except by leave of the House. I am sure that the House would be very pleased to give him that leave in order to understand just what we are doing. The Minister has to answer, but it would be just as well if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would explain what he has to answer.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

The Amendment means exactly what it says. It is clear enough.

9.27 p.m.


The idea that the Government have in mind in proposing the setting up of these advisory committees by the board is that the members will be drawn from a very wide field indeed by virtue of their personal knowledge, experience and usefulness to fulfil the functions which are laid down in the sub-section. We have certainly not contemplated that they should sit on these advisory committees in a representative capacity. For example, I could not imagine that a member of the Charity Organisation Society would be put on a commitee in order to represent that society. Equally, I should not expect that a member of a county council would be put on to represent that county council. It is clear that councils of the counties and county boroughs will be among the bodies from whose members the persons to be appointed to these committees will be drawn. My right hon. Friend is, however, reluctant to see words of this nature inserted in the Bill, because, although those two classes of bodies will undoubtedly contribute their members to the formation of these committees, the members will not sit in a representative capacity. My right hon. Friend is afraid that, if words of this nature were inserted, the members might be regarded as sitting in a representative instead of an individual capacity. I hope that, with that explanation, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not press his Amendment.

9.26 p.m.


It is interesting to know that even non-representative people may be consulted in an advisory capacity, but that the Commons House of Parliament is to have nothing to do either with the appointment of those people or in consultation with them. The House would do well to look at this Sub-section, which says that, in dealing with the members of the Unemployment Assistance Board: (3) For the purpose of securing the advice and assistance of persons having local knowledge and experience in matters affecting the functions of the board under this Part of this Act the board shall arrange for the establishment of advisory committees throughout Great Britain "— Even the Minister, however, has not been prepared to accept a very moderate Amendment, moved by one of the hon. Members behind him, to insert the words: after consultation with the councils of any county or county borough concerned in the administration of each such area, That is exactly what we have always said about this board, that they are not only going to be outside the influence of the House, but that, when even a supporter of the Government asks that the local authorities shall have some influence over them and that the advisory committees shall be appointed after consultation with the local authorities in the area, that very moderate request is not acceptable to the Minister. The right hon. Gentleman understands clearly, in refusing that request, just where the Public Assistance Board will go under the powers that are given to it. Not only will it not consult, and will not—because of its peculiar constitution—be able to consult, but time will certainly prove that it will ultimately come into conflict with the local authority, because there is no clear definition of the boundary between the two bodies, and in due course one or other of the authorities will encroach on the other.

To remedy matters, the hon. and gallant Member proposes that elected authorities shall be consulted before these advisory committees are appointed. The Parliamentary Secretary, however, says, "No, there may be people of great experience excluded from becoming members of the advisory committee, and the Public Assistance Board, in appointing its advisory committee, will, of course, always take cognisance of the local authority, the elected body." It will not altogether ignore them; it has to keep a sort of mask of representative authority in front of it. It will probably send a note on its headed notepaper to tell them that it has appointed an advisory committee and has decided to include so-and-so. I daresay that the board will at least do the local authority the courtesy of acknowledging in that way that it has come into their area and is performing certain functions in their area, but it will not ask the authority for advice. What is the right hon. Member's reason for refusing this very modest request? It would not interfere with the functions of the Assistance Board.

I take it that the Parliamentary Secretary says, that what the Government want is the right to put certain people on the board who have great experience. Who are those people who have great experience and who are not members of a public authority? Sometimes, we know, there are odd individuals in various parties who have the misfortune for one reason or another not to be elected to an authority. Those are not the people, as a rule, who are taken by such boards as these, and they are not the persons whom it is intended that the board shall take. It is intended to leave the Assistance Board free to select people who understand the spirit in which it is going to operate its authority. It is a charity organisation society which the Government have in mind in this particular case. If the Government want to give themselves a free hand to select the people, I would not say another word about people who tried to do well and good in their own particular way, but there is a certain type of fussy individual who comes into public life and who exercises himself in social life, and he would wield a lot of authority and give very little in return. Every public man of experience knows that kind of person.

We can give every credit for public service to certain people, but not to the person who obtrudes himself on public life, who has not been elected, the kind of person you cannot stop coming forward if you use a hammer on him, and who has a very finicky way. Such people are in fact the real descendants of the gentlemen with whom Oliver Twist had contact. The Parliamentary Secretary in refusing to take consultation with the local authorities has in mind, I think, people of that kind, although he perhaps would not admit they were people like that. They are non-representative people who have very rigid views of the social organisation in which they are playing an important part, but to whom it is not very material what happens to the people for whom the organisation exists.

The Amendment gives point to the Amendment which we really wanted, namely, that the members of the Assistance Board should be appointed by the House of Commons, for if we cannot have some direct control over that board, if they have to be advised, we want them to be advised at least by people who have had public experience and who are elected representatives. That is the least that can be asked. It is a modest request that, in appointing their advisory committees, the board should take counsel with the local authorities. They have no right to operate in any area unless they do that. It is not merely the very essence of the principle of democracy, but it is a matter of decency to the local authorities. The House would not call the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment a revolutionary or a Bolshevik, but he has had experience in local government and he looks at this question no doubt from the point of view of the county council, and he apprehends what might happen in the appointment of the committees. I hope he will stand by the Amendment. In loyalty to the local authorities he ought to stand by it. The Minister ought to face up to the question and give some better answer than he has given.

The whole essence of public life and its work is involved in a matter of this kind. In the work of the Assistance Board, with its wide powers in administration, in dealing with people and in its work schemes, the advisory committees are going to be very important. It is not necessary to recount the whole of the powers which this body will have and about which they will have to be advised. They are very great indeed. I think it is certain that at some stage or other they will clash with the elected local authorities. I think it will ultimately be found, in the course of two or three years, that, with the functions it has to perform, this body will not be able to live side by side with the elected local authorities without some great modification of the powers of the Board. I hope Members of the Government who are connected with local government will see that some more effective answer is given to this request, and will see that democracy locally will have some consideration even if the democratically-elected representatives of this House are ignored.

9.42 p.m.


This is an important matter that ought to have the careful consideration of the House before we part with it. Under this Clause the Board are to have autocratic powers to select anybody at their own discretion and to use them as their own advisers. The Board will have great powers of distributing favours, for they will have the power to pay the advisory committee travelling expenses and other allowances. They will be able to distribute their favours—because there is always a certain prestige in having a power of this kind of administering public assistance—entirely according to their own likes and dislikes and, without any regulation, to fix the areas throughout Great Britain. They will be able to select what areas they wish, whether they shall be large areas, local government areas, industrial units or rural units, and whether they shall conform to local government areas or follow the areas now followed by public assistance.

I am not particularly attracted to the Amendment, but at any rate it gives lip service to a principle of local government. Ever since the Statute of Elizabeth the business of public assistance has been geographical and associated with local government areas. Originally it was the vestry of a parish and associated with the church. Gradually, in the light of experience, it conformed to local government areas. This most vital duty to the mass of the people, of helping them when in distress, is now, for the first time, being divorced from local government and given to an autocratic Board. Does it not seem common sense, if we are to build this machinery on new lines, that we should follow one of two courses, either the course that is suggested by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), or, alternatively, conform as far as possible to the conditions of local government.

There is a strong and almost unanswerable case for something of this kind in that the public assistance committees are going to continue their functions for limited purposes after the passing of this Bill. They will still be responsible for the non-able-bodied and for those outside insurance. They will still be responsible for those people who find themselves out of work, people who are in trade or business, such as the coster, the small shopkeeper and various classes of society who will not be transferred to the board. They will be working on parallel lines with the board and its machinery. Does it not seem reasonable that when they decide to get advice, and not always to act on their own responsibility, when they endeavour to get local knowledge, that they should be required by Parliament to consult those who have been elected and who have knowledge of local conditions?

There is a class of well-meaning people who desire to do good but who, owing to their training, knowledge and experience only too often try to do good in the wrong way. There is an institution for which I have great respect, called the Charity Organisation Society, which consists of very well-meaning people, who have a tremendous affection for case papers. They are artists in the card system. Anybody who has any knowledge of the East End has only to mention the Charity Organisation Society, and the people concerned are disturbed.

Mr. D. D. REID

If the hon. Member were asked to help a person and that person were recommended by the Charity Organisation Society, would he not be quite safe in giving them help?


Absolutely safe, but it does not necessarily mean that when a person has not been passed by the Charity Organisation Society that that person does not require support. They are an embodiment of red-tape of the wrong kind. They mean well, but somehow or other, in the light of experience, it is not wise, it is not expedient, if you are going to make this new machinery work, to hand these important powers to officials entirely to be guided and advised by them. I do not suggest that that will necessarily follow, but I do suggest that if the Minister wants to make this great, almost revolutionary, experiment work it would be wise to link it as closely and as intimately as possible with public authorities. We have a very good precedent under the Education Act. I am very glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education sitting by the Minister of Labour. I want to be fair to the Minister of Labour. There is no one more anxious to do the right thing and to seek advice than the right hon. Gentleman, and I suggest that on this matter he should seek the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Beard of Education.

Ever since the Education Act known as the Balfour Act has worked through committees of managers, whose business it is to advise the local authorities and to make the machinery of education work smoothly and efficiently. The managers are appointed by the local authority, except in the case of the church schools. Those schools are private institutions, supported by the State, but the trusts are private and the buildings belong to the church and, naturally, the managers are not entirely appointed by the public authorities, but even there, in order to get contact with the public, care is taken to see that a minority of the managers are appointed by the local authorities, the county councils and the borough councils. Surely, that is a good precedent to be adopted in this case.

I suggest that if the new scheme is to work in sympathy with the public authorities, and if the two forms of public assistance, public assistance for the able-bodied and public assistance for the old people, are to be co-ordinated and to work smoothly, they should be intimately associated with each other, and the only way to associate them with each other is to see that the new advisory committees are appointed after consultation with the local authorities. This is going to be rather a thankless job. It will not be pleasant work. It will not be work that will add very much to the glory of people who undertake it. Very few men or women will be prepared to take it on unless they feel that they are representative in character and have some contact with the authority that appoints them. To leave their appointment merely to the board will mean that you will not get the right kind of men and women. You will get bitterness and you will not get that contact with the locality and with the people concerned that is so essential and vital if justice is to be done, and that can only be brought about by contact with public bodies.

9.51 p.m.


One thing that astonishes me in this Debate is the quietness of hon. Members opposite. I have been looking across at the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Braithwaite) and wondering when he would begin to protest about the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary. If the Amendment is not to be carried it will mean that the board has power to appoint an advisory committee without consulting anybody except those whom they think fit to consult. Take the position in Sheffield. The hon. Member for Hillsborough has a great regard for Sheffield, or he has had since 1921. I do not know whether he had any regard for it before then. Imagine the board setting up an advisory board in Sheffield, without consulting the City Council. What would the hon. Member for Hillsborough say? If he found that the advisory committee were not carrying out the work properly he would be the first to go to the Minister of Labour and say: "You have made a mistake." The City Council ought to have been consulted on this matter. They are the people who have the responsibility of governing the city and of dealing with public assistance. They could have told you who were suitable for this particular work." I am surprised at hon. Members opposite taking things so quietly. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hillsborough will express his opinion. I have seen him for the, last 10 minutes keenly interested in the discussion, and it would be extremely interesting to hear at least one of the Members representing my city expressing an opinion upon an Amendment of this kind.

With regard to the Parliamentary Secretary, I am not surprised that he has refused the Amendment. He has become so accustomed to refusing Amendments that it becomes automatic with him. I think there is justification for the Amendment and I hope the hon. and gallant Member who moved it will persist in taking it to a Division. No one could accuse the hon. and gallant Member of being a Bolshevist. No one could accuse him of being an extremist in any shape or form, except perhaps an extreme reactionist at times. He has had a good deal of experience of local authorities and he is jealous of the work of local authorities, and I am satisfied that he has put down the Amendment in the best interests of the people who will have to come under the board. When the board have to appoint an advisory committee, who will be consulted? Is it going to be the Charity Organisation Society? Is it going to be the kind of fussy person we had in the old Poor Law days during the War, who tried to teach working women to make a small wage spin out a long way? Is it going to be the kind of person who told them they could get a good meal off a cod's head, and forgot to ask who would eat the body? We have not forgotten those things. I remember the type of fussy individual who used to tell the working people what they ought to do. They knew all about it, but in reality they knew nothing at all about it.

What do you expect these advisory committees to do? You want men and women not only with a knowledge of local government, but with wide experience in the administration of the Poor Law and public assistance, and there are plenty of these people knocking about in nearly every area in the country. Whom are you going to consult? Are you going to the public assistance secretary, to ask for the names of some people suitable for the Advisory Committee? Is the Church going to be consulted? Are you going to have a representative of the board going to the local vicar and asking for the names of likely people? We have a right to know. What better method of approach could you have than through these local authorities? They are not being asked to appoint the people; they are only being asked to be consulted. Take the West Riding of Yorkshire, where you have as many differences in dialect and conditions as you have in the counties of Britain. There you have two or three Yorkshires within a Riding. Who are the best people to approach there? Obviously the county council. They can tell the board the names of people who would carry out the duties and do it faithfully.

I am astonished at the attitude displayed by the Government on this matter. Here you have, for the first time in the history of English law, a non-elected body set up to deal with the relief of the poor, with people outside insurance. There is no precedent for it, and in my opinion it is going to stink in the nostrils of the electorate as time goes on. You have advisory committees suggested, which will be left to the discretion of the board itself, and surely it is only reasonable to ask that the board should consult someone before appointing these advisory committees. The local authorities are the people who know, the people who have had experience. I am astonished that Members representing the great City of Sheffield should sit quietly by and see their own City Council ignored in a matter like this. I hope the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) will be big enough to stand up in his place and defend his own city, defend the City Council that he has so much regard for, that he never misses an opportunity of keeping in contact with, and I hope we shall have the benefit of his remarks on this Amendment. I also hope the hon. and gallant Member will force this Amendment to a Division and that many hon. Members will see that it is carried.

9.59 p.m.


The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who has just sat down, expressed astonishment that supporters of the Government, particularly from the City of Sheffield, have not seen fit to intervene in this discussion. There are two reasons for that. The first is the urgent desire of the distressed areas to see this Bill upon the Statute Book. We are asked, even by the City of Sheffield, which consists of a majority of the hon. Member's party, not so much to indulge in an outburst of rhetoric in this House as to speed this Bill on to the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment, and in view of the fact that the House is working under a Guillotine Resolution, we think it unfair to deprive hon. Members opposite of their opportunities for making speeches of inordinate length.

Another reason is this: My hon. Friend opposite has said that we who represent the City of Sheffield should be righteously indignant at the suggestion that the City Council should not be consulted when a body is being appointed for the purpose of administering public assistance. I can only say to him that the evidence of the majority party on the Sheffield City Council would have been of no value, because they themselves refused to administer public assistance in the year 1932. They left the whole of the work to their opponents.


Is the hon. Member contemplating a continuance of a majority of Socialists in the City of Sheffield?


No. My hon. Friend was asking whether the present city council should not be consulted. There will not be another election for that body until November next, and in the meantime these appointments will take place, which forces me to repeat my assertion that the evidence of the present majority party on the city council would be of no value, because they have not availed themselves of practical experience in the administration of public assistance. That disposes of the situation so far as Sheffield is concerned, but I wonder if the hon. Member is serious in his support of this Amendment, because under it trade unions could not be consulted on that point. I think perhaps his indignation should have been transferred from these benches to those opposite.




I cannot give way again. It was only at the hon. Member's invitation that I intervened at all. I did not enter the Chamber with the intention of speaking, as I was anxious to see the Bill passed, but as my hon. Friend has invited me, saying that he thinks my affection for Sheffield only dates from the year 1931, may I say that my affection for Sheffield is on a level with his affection for Normanton, which dates from not quite 12 months ago. I can only express the hope that both my hon. Friend and myself will be able to represent these constituencies of our adoption with efficiency and zeal, and that we may both be in this House to meet after the next General Election.

10.2 p.m.


We on these benches will watch with interest the future activities of the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat, when we are attempting to get trade union representation on bodies of any kind. The hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte), who moved the Amendment, often has Amendments on the Committee stage of Bills on behalf of the County Councils Association.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

This one is not.


I am very glad to find out that on this occasion at any rate the hon. and gallant Member is acting on his own initiative, because of the experience he has had of local authorities and the good work they have done. I congratulate him on acting on his own initiative on this occasion, and I can assure him that we shall give him an opportunity of going into the Lobby to get his Amendment carried.

I rose, however, because of the answer that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour gave to the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment. We all grow increasingly aware of the Government's many deficiencies. Even their supporters are becoming increasingly aware of them with every passing week, and they do not hesitate to call attention to them in various ways. We had an example of that yesterday, but I did not know till to-night that they were so absolutely deficient in gratitude as has been made apparent by the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary refused this Amendment. Let us recall the past 2½ years. Was it not this National Government that turned over to the county councils and the county boroughs the task of administering transitional payment? Was it not this Government that placed on those bodies that onerous and in some senses disagreeable duty? And is it not true that during those 2½ years those bodies have accumulated a very wide experience and great knowledge in all that appertains to the administration of transitional payment? This unemployment assistance, as it is called, which this board has to adminster, is only another name for transitional payment after all.

What does this Amendment do? It is concerned with bodies who have had the onus of administering transitional payments for 2½ years with all the disagreeable associations of the job and all the disagreeable things they have had to do in administering the means test. The very Government that imposed that task on them and has, through the mouth of the Minister, congratulated them over and over again on the way they have discharged the duty, comes down and tells the House of Commons through the Parliamentary Secretary to the same Ministry that it is not worth while consulting these bodies as to who should, be put on the advisory committee to be set up to deal with unemployment assistance. Could there be a greater example of the complete ingratitude of the Government to bodies upon whom they have imposed all this responsibility for 2½ years? They actually now refuse to take them into consultation in setting up what they regard as these necessary committees. We shall have no hesitation in supporting the Amendment.

10.6 p.m.


I want to support the Amendment, and I confess my surprise that it was not accepted. When I saw it on the Order Paper, knowing that Governments sometimes arrange for Amendments to be put down, I thought the Government had arranged to have this one moved. I expected the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) to support the Amendment, because I have heard him on several occasions speak favourably of these matters. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment said that in the appointments of these committees there might be grave dissatisfaction and they wanted the considered opinion of these elected bodies. As has been pointed out, many of these men have been administering the means test for a long time, and they would have great knowledge of the right persons to carry on the work, and their advice to the unemployment committees would be of great help. I should have thought the Government would have accepted this Amendment, because it is desired to secure the advice and assistance of persons with local knowledge. Who could have it better than the local bodies elected for the purpose? The Minister of Labour said: "We cannot do this because we want to leave the unemployment committee free and unfettered to pick whom they think fit." I do not think it is dealing properly with the question, and I hope the hon. Members will stick to the Amendment. I can assure them that if they do not, we who have followed the discussion will have no hesitation in forcing a Division.


Is the hon. Member prepared to say that, in areas where commissioners have superseded the local authorities he and his party will be prepared to regard these commissioners as possessing an equal amount of local knowledge with the ordinary council?


This Amendment does not deal with that. It speaks about elected bodies, and I am speaking to the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.



Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 55; Noes, 264.

Division No. 250.] AYES. [10.11 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grundy, Thomas W. Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Maxton, James
Banfield, John William Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd) M liner, Major James
Batey, Joseph Harris, Sir Percy Nathan, Major H. L.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hicks, Ernest George Owen, Major Goronwy
Cape, Thomas Janner, Barnett Pickering, Ernest H.
Cove, William G. Jenkins, Sir William Rathbone, Eleanor
Cripps, Sir Stafford Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Rea, Walter Russell
Daggar, George Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rothschild, James A. de
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Edwards, Charles Kirkwood, David Tinker, John Joseph
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Lawson, John James West, F. R.
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Leonard, William White, Henry Graham
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, David (Swansea. East)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur McEntee, Valentine L. Wilmot, John
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Mainwaring, William Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Groves and Mr. John.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leads, W.) Dickie, John P. Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Drewe, Cedrle Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Dunglass, Lord Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Eastwood, John Francis Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Edmondson, Major A. J. Hurd, Sir Percy
Apsley, Lord Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Iveagh, Countess of
Aske, Sir Robert William Elmley, Viscount Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Emmott, Charles E. G. C. James, Wlng-Com. A. W. H.
Atholl, Duchess of Emrys-Evans, P. V. Jamieson, Douglas
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Everard, W. Lindsay Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Fleming Edward Lascelles Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th. C.) Ford, Sir Patrick J. Kerr, Hamilton W.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Fox, Sir Gifford Knox, Sir Alfred
Blindell, James Fraser, Captain Ian Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Bossom, A. C. Fremantle, Sir Francis Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
Boulton, W. W. Fuller, Captain A. G. Law, Sir Alfred
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Ganzonl, Sir John Leckie, J. A.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Leech, Dr. J. W.
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Gibson, Charles Granville Leigh, Sir John
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Gillett, Sir George Masterman Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Glossop, C. W. H. Lewis, Oswald
Broadbent, Colonel John Gluckstein, Louis Halle Liddall, Walter S.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Goff, Sir Park Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham) Goldle, Noel B. Lindsay, Noel Ker
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Llewellin, Major John J.
Browne, Captain A. C. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Lloyd, Geoffrey
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Graves, Marjorle Lockwood, John C. (Hackney. C.)
Burnett, John George Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Lockwood, Capt, J. H. (Shipley)
Caporn. Arthur Cecil Grigg, Sir Edward Mabane, William
Castlereagh, Viscount Grimston, R. V. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Gritten, W. G. Howard McConnell, Sir Joseph
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. McCorquodale, M. S.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Gunston, Captain D. W. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring) Guy, J. C. Morrison McKie, John Hamilton
Christie, James Archibald Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Clarry, Reginald George Hales, Harold K. McLean, Major Sir Alan
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Colfox, Major William Philip Hammersley, Samuel S. Magnay, Thomas
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Hanley, Dennis A. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Cook, Thomas A. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Copeland, Ida Harbord, Arthur Martin, Thomas B.
Courtauld, Major John Sewell Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Cranborne, Viscount Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Craven-Ellis, William Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Crooke, J. Smedley Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Hellners, Captain F. F. A. Milne, Charles
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Cross, R. H. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Mitcheson, G. G.
Crossley, A. C. Hopkinson, Austin Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Hore-Belisha, Leslle Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Hornby, Frank Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll) Horsbrugh, Florence Moreing, Adrian C.
Dawson, Sir Phillp Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)
Denville, Alfred Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Rickards, George William Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Moss, Captain H. J. Robinson, John Roland Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Munro, Patrick Ross, Ronald D. Tate, Mavis Constance
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Templeton, William P.
Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid Runge, Norah Cecil Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Oman, Sir Charles William C. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Patrick, Colin M. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Peaks, Captain Osbert Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Pearson, William G. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Peat, Charles U. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Train, John
Penny, Sir George Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Perkins, Walter R. D. Savery, Samuel Servington Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Pike, Cecil F. Scone, Lord Turton, Robert Hugh
Potter, John Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn O. H. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Ward. Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Pownall, Sir Assheton Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Procter, Major Henry Adam Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Pybus, Sir Percy John Skelton, Archibald Noel Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Radford, E. A. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Wells, Sydney Richard
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.) Weymouth, Viscount
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine. C.) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Ramsbotham, Herwald Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor) Whyte, Jardine Bell
Ramsden, Sir Eugene Soper, Richard Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Ray, Sir William Spencer, Captain Richard A. Wills. Wilfrid D.
Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Reld, Capt. A. Cunningham. Spens, William Patrick Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Reid, David D. (County Down) Stevenson, James Wise, Alfred R.
Reid, James S. C. (Stlrling) Stones, James Womersley, Walter James
Reid, William Allan (Derby) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Remer, John R. Strauss, Edward A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Strickland, Captain W. F. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert
Ward and Commander Southby

Question put, and agreed to.

10.22 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 31, line 34, to leave out from "shall" to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert: have access to the local employment committees set up under the Labour Exchanges Act, 1909, and the Minister shall make the necessary arrangements for this purpose. A good deal was to be said for the Amendment upon which the House has just come to a decision. If there are to be advisory committees under Part II, it is desirable that they should have the advice of the local authorities in the making of their constitutions. There is a good deal more to be said for the Amendment which I now ask the House to consider. It is a minor criticism of Part II' of the Bill that it leads to an immense amount of duplication of machinery of officers, and indeed of offices There is, in our view, a good deal of unnecessary duplication in many directions, and now it is proposed to set up duplicate advisory committees. I must admit that advisory committees are essential, because the board can hardly function properly unless it has access to local opinion, but it is entirely unnecessary to set up new advisory committees when, under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour in every Employment Exchange, a perfectly efficient advisory committee is already functioning which, in its composition and experience appears to be an ideal body to act in an advisory capacity to the new board.

The existing advisory committees are composed, as the House is aware, of equal panels of employers and of representatives of workers' organisations. The employers' representatives are chosen after consultation with the appropriate body of employers' organisations, and the workers are chosen after consultation with the appropriate trade unions. This Amendment covers the Amendment which we have last considered, in that there are also appointed representatives of the local authorities and of the old public assistance committees. The advisory committees ought to be fully comprehensive in their scope because they have to consider all the local conditions and the administration under Part I of the Bill.

A further point indicates the desirability of these bodies performing advisory services to the Board in that, as has been pointed out in frequent occasions in connection with this Bill, the two bodies being set up are independent, and it is of the utmost importance, where they are dealing with the same people who may be passing from contributory insurance to becoming clients of the Board, that there should be close co-operation and coordination between the two bodies and also a close understanding of their common task. I do not think there could be any bodies more fitted to carry out that duty than the local advisory committees, which are already functioning and have had many years' experience. In appointing advisory committees to deal with the same kind of problem, the question which will immediately arise in any particular area will be the question of personnel. We had some discussion on that question on the last Amendment, when it was pointed out that there might be many people who were willing to do this work but who would in some respects be entirely unsuitable for it, and that this question of personnel would cause the greatest difficulty to the new Board when they came to look for a new committee. The very people who, by knowledge, experience and training, are suited to do this advisory work, and who have all the local conditions affecting the scheme at their fingers' ends, are already engaged in such work. It may be said that the advisory committees already operating in the exchange areas have their own work to do, and would not be prepared to undertake the additional labours which may arise under the new Board; but in fact the existing advisory committees are not overworked at the present time, and they would be much better able than any new body to carry out the functions which they would have to perform. They would have expert local knowledge, and would serve as a valuable link between the two independent bodies which, as has been pointed out, are liable to be hampered in their functions by lack of co-ordination.

10.27 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

After the clear and lucid speech of my hon. Friend, it is not necessary for me to make a long statement, but I cannot imagine that anyone reading the words of the Clause: For the purpose of securing the advice and assistance of persons having local knowledge and experience in matters affecting the functions of the Board under this Part of this Act, could have any alternative but to vote for the Amendment. If the present committees can give advice, as they do, I do not see why they should not be accepted as advisers at this stage. If we are satisfied as to their experience in carrying out their present functions, it stands to reason that they must be the right people to do that kind of work. In my view all the qualifications required for the men who are to come upon the new board are similar to the qualifications which are required for the present committees, and, unless we are going to say that the method of appointment hitherto has been wrong, I think the Minister has no alternative but to accept the Amendment.

10.30 p.m.


I am afraid that the two hon. Members who have spoken have not really appreciated the difference between the inactions with which the two bodies to which they made reference are going to be charged. The function of the local employment committee is to advise the Minister of Labour upon placing matters and upon the general running of the Exchange in the particular area. They represent different interests—employers and workpeople and others. In resisting the last Amendment, I pointed out that the members of the new Advisory Committees would be appointed in their personal capacity rather than their representative capacity, and that alone is a reason for the Government not accepting this Amendment. If the House realises that the functions of the Advisory Committees will not be to advise about placing matters in their particular areas, but about entirely different matters—local conditions, the question whether or not differential scales are desirable in one part of the area as against another, and questions affecting individuals—I think they will realise that the mere fact that a man is representative of a body of employers or workpeople on the local employment committee is not necessarily the best of qualifications for fulfilling these functions.

When I add that the local employment committee is appointed by the Minister, it is obvious that, if you are going to have advice given to the board, it is very much better that it should be given by independent persons and not by persons nominated by the Minister. I am not going to say that the Minister will nominate persons who are not satisfactory, but it has been repeatedly said by hon. Members opposite that it is not only important that they should be impartial but that they should appear to be impartial. Although these members of the local employment committee would undoubtedly perform their task in a perfectly impartial manner, nevertheless they would be open to the suspicion of not being impartial owing to the fact that they had been appointed by the Minister. For these various reasons I am unable to accept the Amendment.

10.34 p.m.


I do not see very well how the Government could do otherwise. What the hon. Member has been asking for is that applicants should have access to the employment committees. If it was the case that they were to act as an alternative advisory committee, I should say it was the case of being between the devil and the deep sea, without knowing which is the sea and which the devil. It is a very good thing that they should have access, so as to get all necessary information, and that they should have the benefit of the experience that they have, but I do not see that we should cut this out and abolish the advisory committee altogether. I do not think too much of the advisory committee but I expect that some individuals, at any rate, will have to have a sort of smoke-screen of representative people who will keep appearances up. I do not see how the Government could accept this proposal.

Amendment negatived.

10.35 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 31, line 35, to leave out "advisory," and to insert "administrative."

We mix up in this Bill all kinds of bodies, boards of assessors, and advisory committees, and obviously, if the Minister accepts the Amendment which I am moving, it will change completely the character of the advisory committees mentioned in this Sub-section. The Unemployment Assistance Board will operate locally through the officers in given areas. I imagine that these officers will function, as designed in the Bill, on regulations made by the Unemployment Assistance Board. It will be their task in the areas to operate those regulations, but we must not forget that in this connection the Unemployment Assistance Board are perpetuating the means test. The application of the regulations made by the Unemployment Assistance Board in the specific areas will be through the local officers who may be advised by the advisory committees.

We want to change the character of these committees and to make them administrative. We do not desire to leave the matter arbitrarily in the hands of the officer of the Unemployment Assistance Board, but to ensure that these committees, working in conjunction with him, shall be responsible for the administration of unemployment assistance in the given areas. That is the purport of the Amendment, and we should like to see the character of the local committees completely changed, and some measure of public control over officers to be appointed by the Unemployment Assistance Board. We do not believe that on this matter of assisting the unemployed by means of cash or in other forms all wisdom is in Whitehall. There is a lot of experience in the local areas which could be utilised in this way by administrative committees functioning with the executive officer. He would act on their instructions, always, I suppose, within the regulations made by the Unemployment Assistance Board.


I beg to second the Amendment.

10.40 p.m.


The effect of altering the word "advisory" into "administrative" would completely wreck the whole machinery of this part of the Bill. We have set up a machine in the shape, first, of the officer of the assistance board, with an appeal from him to an appeal tribunal. To substitute the word "administrative" for "advisory" would be to erect another body alongside the appeal tribunal, and I have searched through the Amendments and have been unable to find any consequential Amendments which would explain how any conflict of jurisdiction between the new administrative board and the appeal tribunal would be resolved. It is clear that the Amendment if accepted would entirely wreck the Bill, and for that reason I cannot accept it.

10.41 p.m.


I am not surprised at the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary. The purpose of the Amendment is to wreck the machinery of the Bill and to face the Government with the kind of machinery they have established. We are asking that there should be some measure of local responsibilty with administrative authority by people having local knowledge and experience in matters affecting the functions of the board. The machinery, as it stands, and as it apparently is to stand seeing that the Government will not accept the Amendment and the necessary consequential Amendments which could have been made in another place, means that you will have a centralised board of a small number of persons sitting in London. These people cannot have the necessary local knowledge to deal with cases which will arise within their jurisdiction. Who is to be responsible for the administration? The Government officers, new local dictators, responsible to a far away body in London, whom no person who has to appeal to the Unemployment Assistance. Board will ever see.

That is the machinery, and in order to give a pseudo-democratic flavour to this form of administration, Sub-section (3) of Clause 36 deals with the appointment of advisory committees, people who have local knowledge and experience of this kind of work but whose responsibilities are to be confined to giving advice to the board. Presumably there will be a large number of these committees, and their advice, until they cease to operate and become moribund because they have nothing effective to do, will pour into the great dictatorship which sits in Whitehall. They are a fifth wheel to the coach. The purpose of the Amendment is to switch local responsibility from a person who is a civil servant to a body of persons who, though non-elected, have local knowledge and experience.

The Government are making a serious change in our methods of government. It is a highly centralised system of administration, and there is no real link which can be effective between the person who comes within the operation of Part II and the central authority, the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the appeal tribunal but that does not meet our difficulty. We feel that where the standard of life of unemployed people is being settled, it is far better that it should be done by a body of people who have this local knowledge, this knowledge of the problem with which they are dealing, referred to in Sub-section (3), and not by an official. I ask hon. Members in all parts of the House whether we are asking for anything unreasonable. I think I am right in saying that this is the first time we have ever had a diffused service of this kind, spreading throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain, not based on a definite figure of what is to be given week by week, like health insurance and unemployment insurance. I think this is the first time in our history that we have left, at any rate the initial decision, and, in the majority of cases, the final decision in such matters to an individual who is a State officer. This is a revolution in our constitutional history. It is certainly a revolution in our constitutional practice.

The only serious argument which can be adduced against making these committees administrative committees with executive authority is this—and I admit that there is a case—that as the State is meeting 100 per cent. of the cost, it cannot devolve its responsibilities to local bodies. I admit that argument as between the State and local authorities. I remember one case when I was in office, in which I distributed £500,000 to local authorities in aid of schemes of work and, as 100 per cent. of the cost was met by the State, I insisted, and I think rightly, on 100 per cent. of the control. That is right because local authorities are bodies which have an existence apart from the State. But in this case we are asking for local bodies who would be appointed by the Unemployment Assistance Board and would act under their general directions. Therefore the argument as to the payment of 100 per cent. of the cost by the State does not apply in this case.

I appeal to hon. Members whether this is not a proposal which ought to receive a good deal more consideration than it has received up to the present. It is an attempt to apply the general policy of the Unemployment Assistance Board to local conditions, to allow local conditions to be studied and the national policy to be interpreted by people who have local knowledge. Unless the House is prepared to accept that principle, then all it is going to do is to hand over a large proportion of the unemployed population to a virtually uncontrolled bureaucracy, to a body outside the control of Parliament, to a body of officers in the country enjoying power which no civil servants at the present time enjoy and with only one safeguard for the people who feel aggrieved, namely, the appeal tribunall.

I submit that this is making a travesty of liberty. It is making it utterly impossible for the unemployed person who falls out of Part I and into Part II to-get a square deal. I am satisfied that the great mass of the people who fall out of Part I and who have to appeal to the Unemployment Assistance Board will do so with very downhearted feelings, because they will feel that they are merely in the hands of a vast machine, with no local colour, no local touch and no local sympathy. All that the Bill holds out to a person of that kind who has been turned down or feels he has a grievance against the officer of the board who represents the board locally is an appeal tribunal. I hope that this House will reconsider its views and support this, one of our last endeavours to improve the Bill so far as it can be improved and to bring into it a little more of democratic organisation and a little less of the bureaucracy which is scattered through almost every Clause.

10.52 p.m.


I must confess that the remarks and arguments by the Parliamentary Secretary in opposition to this Amendment were singularly unconvincing. They rested, as far as I understood them, upon the basis that there are no consequential Amendments upon the Order Paper; that the scheme of this Amendment would upset the scheme of the later Clauses of the Bill. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that there is plenty of time, if this Amendment be accepted, between to-night and the resumption of the Debate on the Report stage for consequential Amendments to be put on the Order Paper, or the Minister himself could see that they were inserted when the Bill goes for consideration in another place.

The main purpose of my rising is, however, not so much to controvert the arguments advanced by the Parliamentary Secretary as to ask him this question upon the plain words of the Sub-section which is now under consideration. The Sub-section provides that advisory committees are to have the function of advising and assisting the board in the performance of its functions. The Parliamentary Secretary has, in the remarks which he addressed to the House, pointed out the reasons why, in the judgment of the Government, those functions should be limited to advisory functions. I want to ask him what meaning he attaches to his own words in the Bill, "advice and assistance." If he refuses this Amendment, and therefore confines the committee to being an advisory committee, and for the reasons given by him, how does he suggest that the committee is to give, not only advice, but also assistance to the Board in the fulfilment of its functions? How is a purely advisory committee to be able to assist the board except by advice? The words "and assistance" following the word "advice" must be given some meaning in a Statute. How is the committee to assist the board in making provision for the improvement and re-establishment of the conditions of those who come within the purview of the board, and how it is to assist the board in granting and issuing to those persons unemployment allowances—those being the functions of the board under the previous Sub-section—if in this Sub-section it is denied the possibility of taking any administrative action? My hon. Friend's Amendment would enable the advisory committee to give that assistance for which the Clause provides in defining the purpose and the objects of the advisory committee. The Parliamentary Secretary on behalf of the Government denies to the committee, in refusing this Amendment, the possibility of being anything more than advisory. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be good enough to enlighten the Committee as to what meaning, according to the plain words of the Statute, is to be attributed to the words "and assistance" if he refuses to allow the committee to be an, administrative committee as well as an advisory committee.

10.56 p.m.


There is one point in this Clause to which attention has not been drawn, namely, the provision that the board which appoints the members of these committees is empowered to pay the members travelling and other allowances (including compensation for loss of remunerative time). I would make no complaint against this provision if the functions of these local committees were administrative. My own view is that the extension of payments of this kind, in view of the onerous duties which fall upon them, would be desirable in many cases of local government. We have had boards of guardians functioning for many years carrying on the most onerous and difficult tasks, which very often meant almost a full-time occupation, and the Government of the day have always resisted proposals that these services should be remunerated in this way. At the present time we have the local committees appointed by the county councils which administer the public assistance machinery under the present law discharging no less difficult duties, which involve expenditure of enormous time and trouble, and for all this work no payment has ever been made.

Under this new Bill, when these vast administrative functions are to be taken away from democratically-elected people and to be vested in autocratic authorities—another extension of the new despotism—these advisers are to have no administrative functions at all and will have none of the heavy work which is at present carried on by public assistance committees of local authorities. These people are singled out for payment not only of their properly incurred expenses, but for loss of remunerative time. We have no idea what sort of persons this board will select as their adyisers, or what sort of estimate is to be placed upon the value of their lost remunerative time. It is surely an astonishing thing, after the long years of experience we have had of voluntary committees administering this kind of work, when voluntary duties have become so heavy as to become a real burden on the time of those who discharge them, a problem which makes it increasingly difficult for working people to secure adequate representation upon these bodies by reason of the expenditure and loss of time involved, that every appeal for these people to have proper remuneration has been rejected.

It being Eleven of the Clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended (in Committee and on re-committal), to be further considered To-morrow.