§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment I shall call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) to leave out the Clause. 1111 Hon. Members will observe that there is a long list of Amendments to this Clause, and every one of them is out of order except those in the name of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander)—in page 36, line 19, to leave out "investigating" and to insert "ascertaining," and in line 20, leave out from "may," to the end of the Clause, and to insert "require from an applicant a declaration of resources." On the Amendment of the hon. Member for West-houghton, hon. Members will be able to criticise the Clause or to refer to any points that arise in it. I hope, however, that they will not make use of that opportunity to make speeches practically moving their Amendments. They must criticise the Clause as a whole.
§ Mr. LAWSON
On behalf of the Opposition, I thank you for your decision in this matter, and for giving us an opportunity of a general Debate. I assure you, that while we accept the suggestion to deal with certain points, there will be no attempt to go into any detail.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
Will it not be competent for hon. Members in the course of the Debate to argue the means test in detail in respect to some of the points raised in the Amendment? We had no opportunity of doing this in the Committee stage; indeed, we have had no opportunity of discussing the means test either on the Financial Resolution or in the Committee stage.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
Do I understand that among the Amendments you have ruled out of order are those in the name of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander)?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Every Amendment except those two are out of order. In putting the Question, I shall save them.
§ Sir JOHN HASLAM
May I call your attention to the Amendments in the name of the Minister in page 35, lines 29 and 31, after "of," to insert "any"? Are they ruled out?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I shall naturally save those Amendments in puting the question. In answer to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), I indicated that there will be an opportunity for a full discussion on this Clause. I only ask hon. Members not to make use of the discussion in order practically to move 1112 their Amendments, for that is what it will come to if they lay too much stress on any particular Amendment.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 34, line 39, to leave out the Clause.
This is probably the most important Clause in the Bill. I do not think that there is any Clause in this important Measure that has caused more discussion, commotion, feeling and, indeed, on occasions, indignation than Clause 39. It makes permanent what is commonly called the means test as it is applied to a considerable section of the unemployed. It will be remembered that the Minister of Labour, when he introduced the Bill, made the statement that when it became an Act of Parliament the Measure would have to last for at least a decade as the means for dealing with the unemployed. In objecting to this Clause and the means test which it embodies, we have behind us a large volume of opinion throughout the country. I think I am right in stating that within this volume of opinion are included not only the unemployed, the workpeople of the country and the organised trade union and Labour movement, but tens of thousands of men and women of good will of all parties who object fundamentally to the means test being applied to any section of the genuine unemployed. Although our objections to the test are very strong, they may be stated in fairly simple terms. There is, first, the very natural reluctance on the part of the unemployed man to disclose the most personal things in the possession of his family. Indeed, the smaller the assets of the poor family, the more pride there often is in those simple assets.
The means test is not, of course, new; it is as old as the administration of our Poor Law system. It has been part of our Poor Law system for several centuries in the history of our land. Then the National Government, for the first time in history, threw a section of the unemployed within the operation of what is called the Poor Law means test. We start, therefore, with the argument that this Government thrust a section of the unemployed down into the same category as the people who ordinarily came under the Poor Law system for centuries past. 1113 We start our objections to this Clause on that basis. Let me carry hon. Members a stage further. The means test, in our view, is only appropriate to a certain type of feeble person who has been dealt with for centuries by the Poor Law authorities. It was never intended to apply, and never ought to apply, to persons who are willing and able to work if they can get work. That, in fact, is the root of the objection we have to the means test. It is not necessary to be sentimental about the unemployed to object to this test being applied to any section of them.
There is not only a strong natural human resentment against the test among those who are now undergoing it, but an apprehension among tens of thousands of workpeople in employment who think and feel that they also may be unemployed some day and may have to suffer the indignity of the test. Consequently, there is a very natural resentment to the test and to prying into family affairs for the purpose of administering these benefits. We object, of course, to the administration of the test and the payment of varying sums by different public assistance committees. Where one county authority like Lancashire pays less to the unemployed than Bolton, Wigan, Blackburn and elsewhere, that in itself is an anomaly. That arises, however, from the administration part of it, but it gives a picture to the Government of what certain sections of administrators think of the test. There are men in my division as good as those who live in Bolton, Blackburn or Wigan, yet they receive smaller sums of money from exactly the same source than the amounts received by people who live just across the road in the territory of another local authority. These are administrative points to which we object, but we object not only to the method of administering the test, but to the test itself.
One of the obvious results of the test is that a family must exhaust practically all its savings before it can claim any support from public funds. I speak with personal knowledge when I say that there is nothing more heart-rending to a man who started work at 13 years of age and has worked constantly until he reaches 50 or 55, who has saved a little money, say £100, in the co-operative society, 1114 and owns the small house in which he lives, and is then thrown on to the scrap-heap, knowing full well that industry can never employ him again. Then, as a result of the means test, he is told that before he can get any public support he must exhaust the whole of his savings. There is, I say, nothing more heartrending in working-class homes than such a situation. It is one of the most difficult things in life for one man to imagine how he would feel if he were in another man's place. Even the workman who is constantly employed and has never suffered the indignity of the means test, although he is a member of the working class and lives in the same street as the other man, finds it almost impossible to understand the agony of the person who suffers under the means test.
Taking this test from the standpoint of the State and the municipality, it is not, in my view, good business that the means test should be continued. There is ample proof that the test is cutting deep down into the most intimate relationships of family life. It is commonly known that every legitimate means is employed in order to escape the severity of the test, and in some cases there are first-class human tragedies recorded in the newspapers as the result of the operation of this test. May I add a word about a fallacious argument that is used in the House from time to time. We are asked why we object to a test when we are already suffering from a test under the Income Tax? It is a very plausible argument. It must not be forgotten, however, that the disclosures we have to make in order to pay Income Tax are necessary in order to find out if we are rich enough to pay something away to the State. The Income Tax return is made in order to find out, first of all, whether we have enough money to maintain ourselves before the State takes anything from us. The means test, on the other hand, is imposed so that the authorities may find out whether people are poor enough to receive something which in normal circumstances they would prefer to be without. I know of no man in this country who would prefer the receipt of public money to a decent weekly wage for work performed by himself. I think that can be said for all our people.
Therefore, the comparison between the assessment for Income Tax purpose and 1115 this means test falls to the ground, in my view; they have not the slightest relation to each other. We are told, also, that there are tests in life for all manner of purposes, and that we should not therefore object to the means test. There are academical tests; (medical tests; tests of ability to perform certain duties; examination tests and driving tests—tests of all kind. Further, we are asked why we should object to a means test when the State has to foot the bill. The difference is obvious. In the case of all other tests there is no prying into the private and intimate personal affairs of the person in question, as is the case under the administration of the means test. Then, it is too often forgotten that the establishment of our several social services has contributed in a large measure to the rooted objection to the means test. Let me repeat that in another form. I do not know whether it has dawned on the Minister of Labour that the payment of money under this test is unique in the administration of public funds in this country. The creation of our other social services has brought into prominence the ugly features of the means test. I have lived long enough to remember the time when there was no workmen's compensation, no unemployment insurance, no health insurance, no widows' pensions, no contributory old age pensions, and no non-contributory old age pensions either. I have also lived long enough to see tens of thousands of workpeople being brought under superannuation and pension schemes of all kinds.
The establishment of these social services, mainly without a test, has brought into relief the terrible consequences of a means test for the receipt of unemployment benefit. Let me press that statement a little further. It is argued that there is no means test where the workman contributes to the funds. I have heard hon. Members on all sides of the House say that there is something in the argument that if a man pays a weekly contribution to a fund he is entitled, under an actuarial scheme of insurance, to specific benefits without inquiry into his means at all. As if workpeople in this country did not sometimes receive money without paying contributions towards the funds. Let me be clear as 1116 to the argument put forward that the unemployed ought to have a means test applied to them because they pay no contributions towards the money they are receiving. I will take the case of workmen's compensation, though the payments there are very small, in all conscience. The workman in receipt of workmen's compensation does not pay a penny piece directly towards compensation funds from his own pocket, though he pays indirectly; therefore the argument I have alluded to does not hold good in that case. Then there is the widows' pension, again small enough in all conscience. If I may say so without conceit, I stood on a back bench on this side of the House in 1922 to move a Motion in favour of widows' pensions, and practically all the Members opposite voted against it; but I have lived long enough to see most widows enjoying, at any rate, a small pension. Let me relate the argument of the payment of contributions to the means test and the widows' pension. The widow herself does not pay for her pension. Contributions in respect of the widows' pension and the children's allowances are paid by the husband and the father, and consequently the argument about contributions to the fund will not apply in that case either.
Let me take another case. The Government in this Clause destroy their own argument in relation to the means test. After pressure has been brought upon the Government from all quarters we find that the first 5s. of sick pay from a friendly society and the first 7s. 6d. of benefit under the National Health Insurance Act are not to be taken into account at all in connection with the means test. What is the difference between 7s. 6d. from health insurance and a similar sum from any other source? None at all. So the principle of the means test is already breaking down within the Clause itself. There are all manner of other reliefs granted under this Clause before the authorities are entitled to begin to assess the needs of the family. Sickness benefit is paid under the National Health Insurance scheme without any means test, and that benefit is paid in hundreds of thousands of eases even when the recipient gets his full week's wage during sickness. There is no means test 1117 there. Somebody will argue, possibly, that the workman pays contributions in respect of that benefit, but he does not pay it all, because the State pays a portion and the employer pays a portion too. I submit therefore that the point made that a man has no right to complain of a means test when he does not contribute towards the fund is not a good one.
Let me put another case against the means test. The tragedy of the operation of this test is emphasised when we remember that in the very nature of the case the vast majority of those who come under the lash of the test are over 50 years of age. This means test does not, in the main, apply to youths, though it may apply to some of them. Who are the men who come to be dealt with by public assistance committees and the new board, and to whom will the means test apply? Take the case of a miner, or a textile operative, an engineer or a bricklayer 50 years of age and over. If there are a large number of miners unemployed, a man over 50 has not the remotest chance of returning to that industry, and what chance has he of employment in any other industry? I repeat that the means test is, in the main, applied to persons over 50 years of age or thereabouts. The tragedy in some cases is, indeed, a very terrible one, and if hon. Members take the trouble, as some of them probably do, to go into the homes of the people they represent and inquire how this means test has been applied, I feel sure it would affect their attitude in this matter. I repeat that it is bad business for the State to offend the conscience and human sentiments of a vast number of its people in this way.
I have administered benefits of all kinds for more than a quarter of a century; I know a little about administering benefits to people in sickness and in disablement. The argument that is usually employed is that if a test of some kind is not applied there are some people who will take undue advantage of our generosity. I know a little about that kind of case, too. I think I am right in saying that not more than 2 per cent. of the working folk of this country would take advantage even of public funds, and even if the 2 per cent. are there—and that percentage applies to every section in the community—I deny the 1118 title of the State to penalise the 98 per cent. who are decent folk because of this 2 per cent. who will not play the game towards their fellows. The arguments I have already put against this Clause ought to appeal to hon. Members of all parties. Now I want to pass on to something else. The means test is a relic of by-gone days, it does not belong to the year 1934. It smells of feudalism and stinks of capitalism.
§ Mr. DAVIES
And some Members had better not be too glib, lest they themselves come under the lash of the same test in due course. Nobody in this House can feel that he will be absolutely immune throughout life from poverty, because poverty may come upon the best of us. The means test was established for a different purpose from that for which it is employed to-day. It was established centuries ago. During the last 80 years we have had free elementary education in this country, and most people can now read and write and understand what it is all about. I say, therefore, that the society in which we live revolts against a test which was established centuries ago for quite another purpose; it ought to be sent into the limbo of the past. Whether this Government does it or any other, I venture to predict, in all modesty, that a Government of some political colour will, within the next five or 10 years, have to face up to this problem of the administration of a test which is not only inhuman in its operation but which, as I have already indicated, does not belong to these modem days.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
I have one difference with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), but, in the circumstances of this Debate, it is purely a formal one. I should not myself pronounce for the entire abolition of the means test, but my hostility to the means test as at present administered is so strong that I say without hesitation that I would much rather abolish the test altogether than have the present administration continued. I do not think anything could have been done with regard to this Bill which would have commended it so much to the nation, in making a fresh start in the treatment of the unemployed, as if the opportunity had been 1119 taken under this Clause to change, and change radically, the administration of the means test. Whatever other faults there might be in the Bill, a real advance in this particular department would have meant so much to so many that many other faults might have been overlooked. I thought I caught from an hon. Member opposite during the speech of the last speaker the remark that the present administration smelt—I do not know whether he said smelt or stank—of the situation of 1931. If I am misinterpreting him, I am sorry.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
I misunderstood the hon. Member, but I would myself say that undoubtedly this administration does smell of the situation of 1931; that is to say, this administration of the means test was adopted at a time of great national stringency and emergency. The general lines of administration had then to be framed, and they were naturally framed upon somewhat harsh and stringent lines. Economy was in the air. Economy, I believe, was genuinely needed, and at that time, acting in a hurry, an administration was started which should never have been regarded as a permanent feature of the treatment of the unemployed. I think it was the duty of those who had charge of the administration of the means test—I do not mean merely the localities, because the final responsibility must rest with the Government of the day—to watch the experiment as it went on and, learning from their experience, to be prepared in their first big Measure to lay down lines in the light of what they had learned by their experience.
I cannot see any trace in this Clause, the most important Clause probably of the whole Bill, of such learning by experience, except in one small particular. There is, of course, an advance that was made in the Committee stage with regard to the treatment of disability pensions, which we all welcomed, but that appears to be the only substantial step forward that has been made. That, of course, affects a comparatively small class 1120 and a class which will become increasingly less important as time goes on and as the War generation passes away. If we are indeed to be saddled with the present administration in perpetuity, then I think that will be a very bad result, not only for the unemployed, but for the kind of society that has attempted to sustain itself upon a test of that kind.
The first and the most important matter, I think, in dealing with the means test is the matter of the family income. I am not going into details after your warning, Mr. Speaker, but what I think are making this administration more unpopular than anything else are the enormous hardships, the enormous inequities, that have arisen out of taking a whole family, a whole household, people of very different ages, and treating them all as if they were a single unit of income. Reference has been made to the Income Tax, but when we are making our returns for Income Tax purposes it is, I think I am right in saying, only the income of the husband and wife which is returned together; and if that model had been followed in the administration of the means test, there would have been very much less dissatisfaction than there is to-day.
I think it is the taking of the income of the younger children into consideration, and doing it in such a way that they are left practically with no spending income of their own at all, that is responsible for a tremendous amount of the unpopularity of this administration. More than that it is responsible—and I do not think this can be denied by anybody who has examined the facts—for the breaking up of those units upon which the income at present rests. The family is being broken up in a great many cases in order to avoid the administration of this test. It seems to me a very harsh thing that this growing generation, just beginning to earn wages, should find that in point of fact their wages are not counted as theirs as independent earners, and that their chances to get their own recreation and to form their own small savings with a view to approaching marriage, it may be, are not open to them because of the misfortune that has overtaken the head and usual wage earner of their family.
This, I think, is the first and foremost of the matters which the Government 1121 should, in the light of the experience gained, have resolutely taken in hand. In other matters also, less important than that, I cannot see that there is any scientific basis in the rules that we are asked to lay down under this Clause as to the reckoning of the value of investments. I am not denying that investments should be taken into account, but there is only one basis on which they can be taken into account, and that is to estimate the kind of income which they can be expected to yield, and I say that the treatment of investments as it is laid down in this Clause is imagining a perfectly impossible rate of interest, which nobody supposes that skilled students of the stock markets could obtain with any security, let alone the people to whom this administration is being applied. I say that if the test goes on being administered like that for very much longer, it will be no good talking about the principle of a means test at all, because the ideas connected with that word will have become so unpopular in the eyes of the nation that the nation as a whole will be far more ready to face the occasional extravagance that may result in having no means test at all than they will to continue with the inequities of the present system.
Therefore, in the interests of economy also in the long run, I believe the Government should have taken this opportunity to provide a very different administration. What we are really doing here, when we leave this Clause, or perhaps when we part with this Bill, is to part practically with the control over the administration of this test over the lives of the people. Here in this Clause some guiding lines are laid down, and if they are the wrong lines, as I believe they are, then that will go on having a bad effect as long as this Measure continues, if it is passed, to be an Act of Parliament. Therefore, it was of infinite importance that this matter should have been put right, but apparently the opportunity is going to be lost. If that be so, then I can say that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be saddled with so much unpopularity that it, as a means of administering the fortunes of the unemployed, is itself doomed, because some Government, and very soon, will have to take it in hand and put it right, and when they do that, they may very well make much more sweeping changes than those which merely 1122 affect this Clause. I say that beyond this Measure the Government that continue to make themselves responsible for this administration will be incurring, particularly in the crowded industrial centres, an unpopularity which no virtues and no merits that they may succeed in gathering by successes in other fields will be able to outweigh—the black mark that will necessarily be against their names, put there by people who have felt the bad effects of this administration in the intimate details of their lives and their homes.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. PIKE
The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith), who has just resumed his seat, has evidently forgotten that a short while ago he, together with his leader, was as strenuously as could be expected supporting the continuance of the means test from this side of the House, and it is quite within the memory of hon. Members present that during the last General Election not only did Members of his party and the Leader of his party and Members on this side of the House appeal to the country for power to administer the means test, but they also secured the support of the people of the country on the claims that were made for the absolute necessity of such a test.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
As the hon. Member has referred to something that I am supposed to have said, I have never supported anywhere the means test as it is administered now. I defy him to find any occasion when I have done so, and my speech to-day has been a criticism of the means test as it is at present administered.
§ Mr. PIKE
The question of the means test as it is administered to-day and the question of the hon. Member's attitude towards its present administration do not in any circumstances destroy the fact that in its principle both he and his party, together with our party, voted for its application by Statute. I want to make it clear that, so far as the industrial areas, which are more hardly affected by adverse employment conditions, are concerned, the administration of the means test to-day is far more human as the result of the experiences of the past two years than ever it was since the party opposite made it a necessity by introducing 1123 the Anomalies Act. I have numerous cases brought to me with regard to the administration of the present test that call for very strict investigation, and I want to say, as I expect other hon. Members could say if they chose, that when a particular point of hardship is brought before the notice of those responsible for the administration of the test, no body of men in this country are more willing to rectify it in favour of the applicant than those who are administering it.
If I might go a step further, I would say that when it came to a question of substituting commissioners for local authorities in one or two areas of this country, we heard terrible statements from the Opposition as to what would be the cruel effects of the wicked administration of those cold-blooded civil servants, but it is very significant that we never hear a word to-day of the wickedness of the administrators, commonly called commissioners, and we do not hear it because the wickedness does not exist. Really, this is an opportunity, this afternoon, for the Opposition to air a grievance in this House under the guise of national necessity which they air on the street corners every day as prudent to political necessity and political propaganda. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) knows very well that throughout the administration of the last Labour Government he supported his leaders in their attitude towards the application of a test. He knows very well that his own Leader, the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), firmly and definitely stated in this House that he would not be a party to giving away public money to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who applied for it without some form of test being applied to his case; and he knows very well too that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) supported the means test and, in the Debates in this House on the 14th September, 1931, said :I was prepared, and I am prepared, to agree to-day to a national scheme which involves the investigation of the question, but not under Poor Law auspices."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th September, 1931; col. 534, Vol. 256.]It a test of people's means is a necessary part and parcel of the administration of public funds, it seems to me quite 1124 beside the point to say that we are in favour of it under paragraphs (a) and (b) but not under paragraph (c). It does not alter the principle under whatever division it may be administered. A means test is a means test "for a' that." I am convinced that the form of opposition that we have heard this afternoon to the existence of the test is nothing but sheer cant and hypocrisy on the part of Members opposite. They know that if they were in power at the moment, they would apply it with the same ferociousness—[An HON. MEMBER : "As you do!"]—as they are applying it, and have always applied it, in reference to their own affairs. Let me, for instance, call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the position which prevails in the city of Sheffield where for six years, with a break of nine months, there has been a Socialist administration. To their credit they have, with the assistance of this Government and past Governments, built numerous houses, working-class dwellings, essentially erected for workmen's dwellings, but before a working man can successfully apply for a corporation house he must go to the back door of the housing committee's office and whisper into somebody's ear that he can give a guarantee that he is earning more than 45s. a week, and that his employment will be permanent.
If that is not a means test, when you cannot have a council house under a Socialist administration in Sheffield unless you can meet the conditions, a means test applied to all applicants for these houses, what is it? I say again, it is sheer hypocrisy for the Opposition to come forward and oppose the means test on the ground on which they are opposing it to-day. I will give the House another illustration, drawn from the trade union movement in this country. After the last general strike there were a large number of men in the division of the hon. Member for Westhoughten as well as in the great coalfields of Yorkshire who were denied readmission to the union because, during the strike, they committed the awful crime of feeding themselves by outcropping. But, after that strike, when the unions returned to activity, they found their membership had decreased by 74 per cent., and the first thing they did was to canvass some of these people, to whom they had refused immediate return, for the purpose of getting them back to 1125 the fold. They said : "If you will pay a, fine of 10s. you can come back with the least possible amount of display of moral intimidation from those who have stood by us all along."
If that is not a means test of the vilest character, I do not know what it is, and I am going to suggest that there is nobody in this House or in this country, that there is no administrator on the transitional boards, who could possibly invent such a vile penalty to be imposed on any person, other than the Members opposite and those who are responsible for the unions, whose voice they utter every time they speak in this House.
Let me deal with what the hon. Member said about the Income Tax. He said there was no association between the one and the other. I suggest that there is an association and also a big distinction. If it is right that the Income Tax payer should be submitted to a means test, I see no reason why a man who is in receipt of public money should not also be subject to it. After all, this means test is for the purpose of paying public money from the public purse to a private person; the Income Tax test, on the other hand, is for the purpose of extracting money from a private purse to pay into the public fund. I suggest that if some of the Inland Revenue Commissioners were as humane in their general consideration of some of the complaints of Income Tax payers as are the administrators of the means test to those who make application for a little more than they have been originally granted, there would not be such a nasty taste in the mouths of some Income Tax payers in this country to-day.
As the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) said, one of the hardest hit sections of the community is not the section submitted to the means test but that of the black-coated workers with between £300 and £500 a year, who are subject to the ministrations of the Inland Revenue Department. Hon. Members cannot cheer that one night and ignore it another. If it was right and worthy of their cheers then, it is right that we should consider that matter fairly now. The hon. Member for Westhoughton pictured the widow in receipt of a widow's pension and said the widow does not pay for the pension, that it is not in virtue of her contributions that she gets it, but in 1126 virtue of the contributions of her deceased husband. Of course it is. It is not by virtue of the hon. Member opposite that the President of the Trades Union Congress gets a salary of about £1,800 a year, it is because everybody in the Union subscribes. But it must not be forgotten that the conditions in which the widow receives the pension are known to the husband before he becomes deceased, and he knows perfectly well when he is making his contribution that he is making it in order to provide for his wife in the event of death taking him.
It is the same in respect of the cooperative stores dividend. Hon. Members know perfectly well that they do not actually, when subscribing to the cooperative stores by purchasing goods, purchase those goods for the great benefit they are going to do to mankind by giving everybody who purchases a nice general dividend. When they purchase, or their wives do so on their instructions, it is to get the dividend for themselves, and it is sheer nonsense to suggest otherwise. I want to bring the House back—[Interruption]. There is nothing the Opposition dislike more than taking a medicine of their own mixing. Hon. Members opposite have never known what it is in their own constituencies or elsewhere in this country to face any straightforward opposition. They are all there by feather-bed election processes, and the only place they ever receive opposition is when I rise, or a Member rises who knows a little more about them than they know themselves. Let me bring the House back to the question of the means test.
In 1931 it was stated by the leader of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough, the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Socialist party, and indeed stated throughout the country, that as a result of the May Committee the Socialist Cabinet, prior to running away from its job, had actually accepted certain economies. I have gone to some pains to see what they suggested, what they were prepared to accept before running away, and I find they were prepared at least to save £3,000,000 in respect of the Anomalies Bill, and I also find that they were prepared to save a further £5,000,000 in respect of the means test. 1127 Then what are they screaming about to-day? If in 1931 Members opposite, when there were nearly 3,000,000 unemployed and when they had reduced those who were working to a level of starvation by their foolish economic doctrines, were prepared to take away from the working classes of this country, downtrodden as they said, robbed by the wicked grinding robbing capitalist, £8,000,000 of money through the administration of the means test and the Anomalies Bill, what honesty of purpose can possibly exist in their claim to-day when there are 750,000 more back at work, in addition to the fact that we are finding work for more juveniles as they become available for the labour market than was ever found by Members opposite, and there is a possibility, which did not exist in 1931, of the country being able to face up to its financial responsibilities. If it is for political propaganda, probably intended for Upton, where the candidate needs some help for he cannot speak for himself. I heard him the other night. I suggest to the House that it is nothing but the most blatant hypocrisy—I say it again, because it is the most effective word which covers the activities of hon. Members opposite—from a so-called responsible political party in this country.
Quite effectively—possibly too effectively for Members opposite—the means test is being administered. And who is the man to-day who really gets the value of it? Not the bloated capitalist or the rich man, not even the small taxpayer. The man who really has appreciated the value in the last 18 months of the means test administration, is the man who has got back to work as a result of Government policy. I do not suggest that the 2,000,000 who are out of work are not triers, but do not let us misunderstand. There are people in this country, good, solid, Britishers, not brought up on lemonade and biscuits, as the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would have them, but on good beef and beer, who know perfectly well that the means test, as it is administered to-day, is administered to their advantage. But they know men, as hon. Members opposite do—they may be a few, and perhaps the many are judged by the few—who, so long as they can get an equal amount of money from transitional payments 1128 as their abilities would earn in industry, would dodge the issue of work.
The actual administration of the means test in industrial areas has guaranteed to the man who has got back to work that those who cannot look for work for themselves, or who refuse it when it comes, are not to have public funds administered to them, ad infinitum and irrespective of where the money comes from. The worker knows that from the bottom of wealth production, to its ultimate distribution and its ultimate consumption, he provides the greatest volume of that money which would otherwise be promiscuously distributed, were it not for the means test. I stand with the Leader of the Opposition and with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) not to distribute money promiscuously through the medium of transitional payment committees. That money should be distributed very carefully, and the more carefully it is distributed the more humane will be its utlimate distributive effect. I believe that the workers on the whole are satisfied that the highest measure of humanity is being brought to bear upon that administration, and I ask the Government, assuring them of my solid support, to resist this Amendment with all their power.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
If the speech to which we have just listened is an expression of the highest type of humanity, God help us! The Clause which we are seeking to remove from this Bill is an indication of the small extent to which the real problem and difficulty of unemployment have entered into the consciousness of the Government. It illustrates the fact that, from their point of view, the evil in the country to-day is not unemployment but the unemployed man. If the Government could but regard unemployment as the evil and seek to solve that, something of a lasting character would be accomplished in the improvement of conditions, but when they confine their attention to the unemployed man and regard him as the evil, the means test and every other conceivable regulation must inevitably follow to hamper and harass that individual. Because the unemployed man is regarded as the evil, this Clause aims at nothing higher than to discover the 1129 cheapest possible means of dealing with the unemployed man as the evil. It asks "How can we reduce the cost of his maintenance?" If the Government could but bring in some scientific and humane manner of ridding the country of the unemployed, that would be the most laudable way of doing it, and the best for the unemployed themselves, instead of the unemployed seeking to perpetuate their existence in a half-starved way. If they were offered a peaceful way out of it——
§ Mr. MAGNAY
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously say that he advocates a lethal chamber for the unemployed?
§ Mr. MAINWARING
What I am saying is that it might be the most humane way of dealing with them, compared with your system to-day. If I were an unemployed man, I should infinitely prefer to have a decent, scientific and humane way of getting out of it than to perpetuate starvation for myself and family. That is exactly what this Clause aims to do. Why should the problem of needs arise at all, particularly at the stage when it does arise? Many years ago, the Government of the day led the country to believe that the time had arrived when a large mass of our working population lived so near the border-line of subsistence when at work that when any of them became unemployed he also became destitute. That was the reason for the introduction of unemployment insurance in the beginning. There was a recognition that the great mass of the working population could not expect to have any reserves behind them to assist them when unemployment overtook them, and therefore there had to be a nationally-organised scheme to assist them until they got a job again.
§ This Clause does not deal with the man when he becomes unemployed, but six months afterwards. He is no longer at the beginning of his unemployment and he has exhausted his standard benefit and whatever resources he had. His family has been reduced to a very low level. The Clause presumes that the whole of the 2,000,000 people in receipt of transitional payments—and I can take a few thousand from the Rhondda Valley who have been unemployed for eight years——1130
§ Mr. MAINWARING
A million on transitional payments. Whatever the figure is it does not matter. They are a great mass of men. It is presumed that that great mass have had a long period of unemployment and that their condition is such that they require assistance. As they have been out of work for six months or six years, it is presumed that they require a means test. The whole thing is ridiculous, and is a condemnation of the point of view which determined the introduction of unemployment insurance in the beginning. The Unemployment Insurance Acts are themselves an admission that there is a consciousness of national responsibility for unemployment, but this Clause seeks a way out of that national responsibility. It seeks to discover who may carry the burden other than the Treasury. It asks, "On whom can we put this burden of the unemployed man? Has he a son, a daughter, a grandfather, a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin or anybody else? Let us chuck him on to anybody, rather than on to a national body."
§ This Clause very cunningly endeavours to ignore difficulties that might arise. It has been realised that a man may have had War service and may have been wounded in the defence of his country—or of somebody else's country—and may be in receipt of a pension. They dare not take all that from him. Oh, no; they will allow him some of it. In various other classes certain sums of money are to be disregarded, but it must not be assumed that those sums will apply to the individual claimant. A father who is unemployed may have a son or a daughter at home in receipt of any of those sums, and he may find his own income reduced because of that. A son or a daughter may be ill and receive friendly society benefit. Would anybody presume that the son or daughter does not require the benefit? The family as a whole may require it. This very circumstance is used to reduce the amount of benefit given to the father. In each of the cases it may be so applied, and nobody knows how it is going to be done. All that we know is that the income of the dependants will have to be carefully calculated and that the resources coming into the family will have to be carefully considered.1131
§ There will be regulations. Where are those regulations, and how are they to be applied? What standard is to be used? Let us take an individual workman who has no income but his own. How are the regulations to be applied to that man? The presumption that the unemployed man somehow has resources that have to be closely investigated is the most astounding thing imaginable. There is also this point : During and since the War, organisations in this country have continued to arouse enthusiasm in order to inspire people to save. There has been the National Savings Society, and all the rest of it. During the War every patriotic working man who could do so was induced to save. What for? To save the country. To-day, if he becomes unemployed and he has £50 or £100 in savings certificates, what he may have done in that direction in order to save the country will now be used to save the country in another sense.
§ The employing classes of this country have traditionally held up as the highest type of working man the thrifty, independent and God-fearing man, the one who was too God-fearing to get into anybody's debt and who could look everybody in the eye and say : "I can pay 20s. in the £ whenever I owe it." That is the type that has been held up as the ideal type of British citizen. [HON. MEMBERS : "Why not?"] In this Bill you are destroying just that type. That is the evil of it. During last week-end I was approached by four constituents who put just that problem to me. I would like the Treasury to say how this sort of thing can be defended on the grounds of justice : A man has a daughter at home who is a teacher, and who is compelled partially to maintain her parents, and at the same time she has to pay Income Tax upon her earnings. She is compelled to contribute to the Treasury as well as to maintain an unemployed man and herself. Hon. Members are compelling young girls in this country to keep one unemployed man each, if he happens to be their father, and the whole nation gets out of its responsibility on those lines.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
There is no allowance at all for her. If the Govarnment 1132 would make a concession in that matter, we would gladly accept it.
Does the hon. Member suggest that some one else's daughter should be asked to keep that man?
§ Mr. MAINWARING
It is a recognition that unemployment is not an individual failing but is the fault of the State, which ought to provide employment and a livelihood for everybody. That is a principle that ought to be accepted, and which has, in point of fact, been accepted. Suppose that we broadened out in industry the principle which the Government apply in the public service, that when a man loses a job he is compensated. Why is that done? Why it is that when a man is absorbed from one public service into some other he is compensated for the job he lost? Because the community regards itself as responsible for providing him with a job. But there is no compensation for the average industrial worker; he has to bear the brunt of it all himself.
You have been aiming for generations at building up that ideal type of thrifty working men and women, but to-day you are hurling it back in their teeth, and telling them in effect that they were the most foolish section of the community for doing it. It used to be said that the South Wales miners were the most independent type of workmen in Britain. I have known thousands of them who owned their own houses and had a little sum by them in savings. Indeed, some of them may have owned more than one house. But, when they come to be unemployed, what do they find? Naturally, they compare their position with that of neighbours, and some of them have said to me personally, "Of what use is it to me now that during my 20 or 30 years of regular employment I have saved something out of my wages, and my wife has assisted me in doing so? We have carefully nursed our resources and endeavoured to put something by to assist the children, only to find, when the day of need comes, that someone next door, who has no conscience at all, is treated better than we are." That is what the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) has to get down to. Let him go back to the working men and women and tell them face to face what he has attempted to say here. He would not do it.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
I will go with him. I have laid down the real problem that is before us, and the House has now its last opportunity of retrieving something of its reputation. It is not the absolute bottom dog who feels aggrieved, but the most solid and dependable section of those who are unemployed. An injury is being hurled at the best type of working men in the country, and it is causing them offence which they will never forget. I hope the British working man has reached a stage when he cannot be further trained to accept a lower level.
In 1920, after the War, many men met in solemn conclave, some of them representing the Government of the day in this country, and the problem before them was how to take back the working class from the then high level of wages and the relatively high standard of life to what they considered to be a necessarily low level. It is no use jeering at that; it is a fact; there are published reports available for anyone to read. Those men met to consider ways and means, to devise plans how to take the working classes back from that high level of wages and standard of life to a lower one. They devised ways and means, and almost a miracle has been performed in the last 14 years. If anyone in 1920 had suggested that the British working classes would be seen in the present deplorably low conditions of 1934, he would have been deemed a madman, but it has been accomplished. But I solemnly say here to-day that I hope the British working man has reached the lowest of his possibilities in that direction, that this affront which is imposed upon him will be the last affront that he will take, and that he will arise now in reply and sweep out of existence the people who have imposed it upon him.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY
I deprecate more than anything that any bitterness should have entered into this Debate. The Opposition have been talking about this means test Debate, but I hope that by the time it is finished they will be sorry that they raised it. I want to say about two words, which I have not said before, on a slightly personal point. 1134 We have already had this week one unreal Debate, when a right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway tried to raise a discussion which he is not particularly fitted to initiate. I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). A Debate on the means test has now been initiated by Members of the Labour party. If the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) or the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) had started this Debate, we should know where we were. My only reason for rising is that I fought an election a few months ago on this matter and on nothing else, and I had to go into the very worst parts, as the hon. Member for Gorbals knows, of a certain constituency, and state what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I will quote, not the words that he used at that time, which have already been quoted, but the words that he used before in a circular :In assessing the amount of relief to be afforded, the general principle is that income and means from every source available to the household should be taken into account.That affected the aged, the sick and the widow under the Poor Law, and it was backed, as everyone knows, by the majority of the Members of the right hon. Gentleman's party. I know that there are individuals who dissociated themselves from it, but I say that it is absolutely dishonest to go about the country to-day raising this kind of debate. I have finished with it now. I do not want to talk about it; it is a purely personal question; but I want to speak for a minute or two about the principle. The principle of a means test has been accepted by the vast majority of people in this House at some time or other. The whole essence of the problem, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith), I thought very truly and eloquently, is its administration, and I admit that the difference between the principle and its administration may be very big in some cases. Personally, I should like to see, and I believe the Minister would like to see, certain modifications effected. That is one of the reasons for the existence of Part II of this Bill. The hon. Member who opened the Debate spoke about 1135 differences between certain parts of Lancashire, not only in scale but in administration itself, which I think are quite unfair. I think it would be unfair, and I should resent it myself, if every kind of person in my family, taking it at its widest, had to be brought in in assessing the means test for myself; and, after all, that is the best way to apply it—to oneself.
I do not agree with the hon. Member who opened the Debate that this is entirely a new idea. It has been adopted for years by local authorities in regard to maintenance allowances and scholar ships; it is a regular thing throughout the country to-day whenever an assessment is made for extra provision for a child who is staying on at school from 14 to 16, or from 14 to 18. I have had it applied to myself, and I have studied the different methods in almost every county in the country. There is nothing new in the principle; the only question is as to how we can get a completely sound administration. I think we have to be a good bit more scientific about the determination of a minimum standard. I do not want to quote many figures, but there are one or two that have come to my notice recently. One is in regard to rent. It is well known that, the lower you get in the scale of wages, the higher is the percentage of rent that is being paid. Although, in the figures that I have, the median figure for rent as a percentage of working-class wages may be something between 17 and 20 per cent., those who are receiving between 22s. 7d. and 32s. 6d. pay 32 per cent. in rent, and those whose income is between 32s. 6d. and 42s. 6d. pay nearly 24 per cent. in rent. Certain Members of the House, including myself, put down an Amendment trying to deal with this question of rent, and I think that rent ought to be assessed separately and dealt with differently. There will be extraordinary anomalies. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) has already referred to certain matters in Leeds——
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
On a point of Order. Two speeches have been made from the opposite side of the House which have wandered very far indeed from the contents of the Clause, into a discussion of co-operative societies and so on. Are we permitted, in our reply, to go into detail 1136 in answer to the points which have been made? I fear that, if that be done, we shall get very far away from the Clause.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
It is not always very easy for the Chair to anticipate the relevance of an argument which is put forward by hon. Members, but I understand that Mr. Speaker ruled, before I came in, that, although any hon. Member would be entitled to refer to an Amendment on the Paper, he must not use that opportunity to go into detail about an Amendment which is itself out of order. I hope that on the whole hon. Members will observe that Ruling.
§ Mr. BEVAN
There is no Amendment on the Order Paper which refers to any of the matters discussed by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) and by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay). We are forbidden to argue the details of Amendments to the Clause, but hon. Members are permitted to argue on matters not relating either to the Clause or to the Amendments.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
If the hon. Member will forgive me, there is an Amendment down which deals with rent, but I do not wish to make any further reference to it. Rent is one of many matters which come into the minimum standard with which I am dealing. I have attempted to arrive at some sort of scientific estimate of a minimum standard for a man and his wife, a man, his wife and one child, and a man, his wife and two children, and at the kind of standard which is being administered in different parts of the country to-day under the means test. I think that is the vital question, quite apart from this crisscross argument whether one party or another voted for or against the means test.
I should like to quote this figure of minimum standards which is taken as to means after examining three or four different standards put by Dr. Bowley and the "Week-end Review." For a man and wife, 26s. 7d.—under the benefit as restored 26s. For a man, wife and three children the standard set up by the British Medical Association was 40s. 7d. Under the ordinary benefit that figure definitely falls below, unless you give extra shillings for the children. The benefit is not supposed to be a basic 1137 figure. That is understood. Under the means test there is no limit. That has already been made clear by the Minister and accepted by the House. Therefore, unless hon. Members opposite are going back on the principle which they themselves have accepted, they cannot fairly come to the House and go on spreading through the constituencies this new found enthusiasm for a principle which is written into Act after Act and Clause after Clause of Bills and Regulations for which their party has been responsible and, if you like, I was responsible as a Member of the party for several years before. If they want to change their minds, they can do so and let us know where we are, but it is a change. It has to be announced as a complete change of face.
On the other hand, they, with me, and I believe with the Minister, might prefer to go into more detail into a scientific system to see that greater fairness is done—I am not sure whether the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) which deals with the direct relations of father and child is not getting a little nearer. But we have all tried to put down Amendments. There is a general feeling that we should like to see the means test fairly and equitably administered throughout the country, I do not think there is any difference. The difference will come in detail with most Members. I am not referring to hon. Members on the Liberal benches. They have long accepted the principle of the means test, and they accept it to-day, as the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) has made clear. What they object to is the point of administration. If we can separate those two things in this Debate, we shall arrive at a very much better conclusion at the end and we shall do away with this somewhat hypocritical attitude that is being taken up by certain hon. Members opposite.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Member commenced his speech by saying that he thought we should be sorry before the end of the Debate. Nothing I have listened to up to now would make us sorry, but I am sincerely sorry that the hon. Member ever was a Member of the Socialist party. It has been said more than once to-day that there is a great deal to be said for the means test, and 1138 all the substantial criticisms are criticisms of administration. I am not going to approve of statements which have been made by one or two Members on this side of the House. I never have approved of them. I thought they were loose statements and I have always dissociated myself from them. But there is this to be said for the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and the Leader of the Opposition. They have always said—I do not make too much of the point—that, whilst a case might be made out in the abstract for the means test, no case at all can be made out for a Poor Law test. The essence of the Poor Law test is that the family is made the basis of the allowance, and the Poor Law administration is based entirely upon the principle of a deterrent, to make it as unpleasant as possible for a man to be idle. There has been no alteration in the law governing the Poor Law, because it was taken over from the old boards of guardians by the county councils and the boroughs. The law remains what it was.
§ Mr. BEVAN
But there has been no change in the fundamental principles of the Poor Law. One argument advanced for the present Bill is that we are taking over large categories of persons who were formerly, properly, chargeable to the public assistance authorities, and, consequently, we must take over also the principle on which their needs are based. I make this challenge that, if you abolish the Poor Law principle involved in this Clause, the Clause will be of no value at all. In other words, if you accepted the principle that father, mother and children under 16 shall be the family for the purpose of this Clause, you would not save any money worth while.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Hon. Members are protected from having to face up to this by the procedure of the House. We are prevented from forcing them to face up to the Amendments on the Order Paper. We have to discuss this in general terms, and they can ride off by making general speeches such as we have hard. If they had to discuss the Amendments on the 1139 Paper, they would find themselves having to face this : Are you in favour of separating the adult members of the family, or are you in favour of the family unit being father, mother and children of over 16? They would find themselves in a great difficulty on that issue. I find all over the country that the widest and deepest indignation is against the family test. The means test becomes absolutely objectionable, and for most people entirely unpalatable, because of that fact. If hon. Members had to face up to that, what line would they take?
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
Would not the hon. Member express it rather in this way, that what is most objected to is the family test as at present administered? There is a difference.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Hon. Members are able to protect themselves in discussing this by having all sorts of romantic ideas of what is to be done when the board is set up. I will make this prophecy, that when the board has got into operation you will be saving more money than you are saving now. In Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire and in many boroughs where there is Socialist administration the number of disallowances is so small that, when the board starts operating, it will be increased. If the family below 16 were made the basis, it would not save enough money to justify the setting up of the board at all. That is not administration. That is principle. You specifically refuse to define "family" in this Clause. All along the House has refused to define "family." The Parliamentary Secretary has been allowed to make all sorts of glib statements about keeping someone else's sister. The answer is that the workman when he is in work is keeping the hon. Member's sister and, when he is out of work, he has to keep his own as well. I want to advance a further point. In 1931 the means test was never argued in the House, because it was rushed through as part of the economy proposals. It was made by an Order-in-Council and the administration of the means test was deliberately made an extension of the Poor Law system. But we never argued it. Hon. Members have said that the election of 1931 was a confirmation by the country of the means test itself, but the means test was not in operation at the time of the election. It 1140 was annulled. The Government carried a piece of legislation for which there is no majority in the country.
§ Mr. MACLAY
Repeatedly candidates were asked whether they were in favour of the means test and repeatedly they answered "Yes."
§ Mr. BEVAN
The unemployed and the country generally had no experience of the means test and did not know what it involved. I have made the point that the backbone of the means test is a Poor Law test and, if the Poor Law principle in the means test is thrown overboard, nothing is left of it making it worth while operating. If there is one thing for which the Government have no mandate, it is to make this part of our permanent system. You imposed this in 1931 as part of the economy cuts and you are perpetuating it after you have restored the cuts and reduced the Income Tax. It is bunkum for hon. Members to say they have a mandate for this. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) has given the impression that he was returned to the House in order to support the means test. He was returned on a majority vote by Conservative supporters. His election was no justification. Hon. Members know that representatives of religious communities, leaders of public opinion of all kinds, and all sorts of people, no matter what their politics, have represented over and over again that the means test ought not to be carried out any further because of its serious effect on social life.
§ Mr. MACLAY
In view of the representations from religious bodies and others on the administration of the means test continually cropping up in every constituency, and in order to be fair to hon. Members opposite in what we say in our constituencies, will the hon. Member make it clear that, as far as the Opposition is concerned, they will tolerate no means test of any kind whatever, so that we may know exactly where we stand?
§ Mr. DICKIE
Apart altogether from the merits or demerits of the means test, surely, the hon. Member must be aware that the Prime Minister at Seaham definitely laid it down that the test which would be operative was the test laid down by the then Minister of Health, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), in the circular which he issued.
§ Mr. LAWSON
May I say definitely that the Prime Minister, in dealing with the ex-soldier, as to whether his pension would come into the calculation or not, explicitly said that he had telephoned to the Minister of Labour and had asked what their practice was in matters of this kind. The Minister of Health really had nothing to do with it; it was the Minister of Labour. He said that he had received a reply to the effect that disability pensions were not taken into consideration at all.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I want to deal first of all, before coming to the principle of the means test, with what hon. Members say they take exception to, and that is the administration of the test. We have not heard from hon. Members opposite the nature of the administration to which they take exception and what alterations they wish to have made in the law. As a matter of fact, what hon. Members want to be able to say in their constituencies is, "We are in favour of a means test, but not the means test that you have to suffer under." So they want to have the best of both worlds. They want to say that this particular means test is a rotten one, but there ought to be the means test to which they agree. But what they will not do is to assist us in making the means test the sort of means test they say they want to make it. I would like hon. Members, if they are going to speak in the Debate, to be frank and tell us what modifications they wish to have made.
The first question which I put to the Minister of Labour and to hon. Members who support the Government is, Do they consider that, when a person has reached the age of 16, he or she should be assessed upon his or her own resources, or that his or her resources ought not to be taken into account to keep the other members of the family? I will try to show why that is so very important. It is wrong to say that a man over 60 years of age ought, first of all, to look to his own family for support before he looks to the State. I hold that when a person has reached adult age he should be regarded as a citizen of the State and should not be merged in the family unit. The family unit is no longer a unit of modern society. [HON. MEMBERS : "Oh!"] I am speaking of the family 1142 unit above the age of 16 all the time. The father, mother, and the children under 16 years of age obviously are a unit of society, but children above 16 are not, because of the widespread dispersal of the industrial population and of the nature of modern industry. If I obtained employment in the South of England I should escape the obligation to support my brother and sister.
§ Mr. BEVAN
Really I do not wish to say anything unkind at all, but I wish hon. Members would speak about the things they know. If the hon. Member will read the Clause which we are discussing he will see that that is not so. The family is entirely undefined, and it may include anybody in the household.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I may be living in the South of England and may be earning £5 a week, and my income cannot be charged for the maintenance of my family, but if I happened to be working in South Wales and living with my family and only earning £2 a week the whole of that sum could be taken into account. Is that just? That is how it operates. The dispersal of the industrial population makes it impossible to operate the family test without grave injustice. If I leave my home and escape my family responsibility, if I run away, I am all right, but if I happen to have a strong sense of family responsibility, or if by accident my employment is near my home, I may be taxed by the State. You might have a father, 65 or 70 years of age, at work, and a son, 40 or 50 years of age, out of employment. At the moment I can cite cases where such sons are refused any allowance on the ground that they must be supported by their fathers of 70. Do hon. Members support that position? It all arises inevitably out of this method of assumption.
Take a sister in domestic service and a brother out of work? The brother is refused benefit on the ground that his sister in domestic service must subscribe 1143 towards his maintenance. Do hon. Members support that condition? Those are all inevitable by-products of the family test. Will hon. Members state in the course of the Debate whether they agree with that sort of thing? I handed the Minister of Labour a case from London—Acton—the other day where a father-in-law and mother-in-law were refused any help on the ground that their son-in-law was earning £3 12s. 8d. per week. Do hon. Members support that? I understand that relationships between father and son-in-law are not always very pleasant.
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. Member's incompetence to discuss a matter of this description is clearly revealed by his last interruption, or he would know that among all families where there is bad feeling, the feeling is always worse when they live under one roof. I do not wish the good humour of the Debate to be lowered, but I do not want to assist in side-tracking the importance of the point of this discussion. At the moment, that is what is being done. We have the certainty that, under this Bill, that state of affairs will be perpetuated because it confirms the existing practice. Another point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Main-waring). A school teacher earning about £2 10s. a week, with a brother at home, has to pay Income Tax on that £2 10s. and also has to keep her brother. She first of all pays Income Tax, and out of what remains she keeps her brother, for he is not permitted under the Income Tax law to be treated as a dependant. We have tried for two years to get an Amendment of the Finance Bill to make any person regarded as a dependant under the Poor Law a dependant for allowance purposes under the Income Tax law, but have failed. That poor girl, although she cannot claim any rebate for her brother as a dependant, has her brother declared a dependant for this purpose. Is that fair?
1144 I have heard the argument advanced that the family test is a good thing because it cements the family and insists upon the inter-dependence of members of the family. I am not arguing, and never will argue, that a son ought to be entirely unresponsive to the claims of his parents, or that parents should be irresponsible for the condition of their children, but where the burden is voluntarily accepted it cements the family, and where it is imposed by the State it always dissolves the family. I submit that up to now no case has been made out for it, and the exchange of badinage across the Floor of the House of Commons does not solve the problem or answer the argument at all.
The Prime Minister has made an announcement, and so has the Lord President, to the effect that the condition of the distressed areas is causing His Majesty's Government grave concern, and as a consequence they have sent out commissioners to investigate those districts. I do not like to accuse the Prime Minister of hypocrisy, but I really find it difficult to reconcile the Debate this evening with his concern for the distressed areas, because the bulk of the people affected by this Clause live in the distressed areas. They live in South Wales, Lancashire, on the South-East Coast, and in the industrial regions of Scotland. The areas where this money is to be saved are the distressed areas.
If the Government really want to help the distressed areas they will abolish this Clause. It is in those areas that the larger proportion of the £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 a year is to be saved under this Clause. They are the areas where unemployment has been longest and most continuous, and where the people are on the means test. Since 1930–31 people on transitional payment have increased by 250,000. There were 850,000 in 1931. That increase has taken place almost entirely in those areas which are called distressed. Yet it is precisely in those areas that the means test operates most harshly. If hon. Members want to help the distressed areas they should leave the money there. I do not wish to add to that point; it has its own significance.
The operation of the means test in some parts of Great Britain has caused more distress than any other piece of 1145 legislation I know, because it starts just when the unemployed man needs most help. We are discussing unemployment insurance, and hon. Members argue that the reason why a means test is necessary is that people have exhausted their benefit. That point has been answered on more than one occasion. If your insurance system does not cover all your unemployed, it is because of the inadequacy of your insurance system. You have miscalculated. If people are to be insured against unemployment and you have over one million who have exhausted their benefit, it is because of the inadequacy of your insurance scheme. You have not effectively insured the people. If you want to tackle the problem you must broaden the basis of your insurance scheme, increase your revenue by bringing more people into it, rather than segregating a special class for punitive treatment. It is when the unemployed man has been idle for 26 weeks, or it may be 32 weeks under this Bill, when all his resources have been used up, when he has nothing left, when the family clothing has to be replenished, it is at that point that you add to his difficulties by starting to punish him. If you had an equitable system of social insurance you would increase the benefit when the man is idle and in distress, and not give him less.
§ Mr. K. LINDSAY
The point has been made clear several times that that is just the time when the man can get considerably more.
§ Mr. BEVAN
That is untrue. I am ready to admit that there will be individual cases of special need which will arise and where more can be got than the standard rate of unemployment benefit. But that exists now. The public assistance committee can supplement the unemployment insurance benefit now. Therefore, there is no change in that respect.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Is it not the case that when Part II comes into operation 1146 a person in receipt of assistance under Part II will no longer be able to go to the public assistance authority? Is not that the case? If so, is not the implication, as the Minister has stated, that the whole of what he needs under the means test will be given to him under the board?
§ Mr. BEVAN
The hon. Lady has missed the point. It is because at the moment the public assistance authority can supplement the standard rate of benefit, that when all these people come under the board it is necessary to enable the board also to supplement the standard rate of benefit. I have admitted that. There are special cases where that will arise. If the Amendments that we have on the Order Paper would have the effect of increasing the charge, then obviously the purpose of not accepting those Amendments is to increase the burden upon, the unemployed man and to give less allowance. If it is a less allowance, hon. Members cannot argue that under the Unemployment Assistance Board a man will receive more money. All that will happen will be that exceptional cases will have more than the standard rate of benefit, but on the whole the general level of unemployment allowance will be lower. If hon. Members do not accept that, why have they not criticised the administration of the commissioners in Durham? If the State is going to be more generous in the assessment of allowances under the board than the public assistance committees, why is it that under the State in Durham the men are getting £300,000 a year less than they had under the local authority? It is intended under the Unemployment Assistance Board to lower the general level of unemployment allowances, and if men are to receive more under Part II, you destroy the effectiveness of the insurance system. Hon. Members want to have it both ways. They want to preserve the insurance principle and at the same time to say that men will have more under Part II than under Part I.
This is the last occasion on which we shall have a chance of discussing this matter. It will pass into the hands of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I view the whole thing with the gravest possible alarm. Between 50 and 60 per cent. of my constituents will be put under the board. There are whole mining 1147 townships where from 80 to 90 per cent. of the population are unemployed and on transitional payment who will come under the board. If my fears are realised, this Bill will undermine the status of those people. They will not be able to appeal to the local councillors, or to me. All that I can hope to do at this stage is to impress upon the Minister that I believe it is the universal desire of Members of this House to see to it that the conditions of the people are not worsened, and that if the Unemployment Assistance Board does assess their requirements lower than they are assessed at the present time hon. Members will regard the Unemployment Assistance Board as having betrayed the intentions of this House.
I was hoping that we should have an opportunity of imposing limitations upon the board, but we have not had a chance. I implore hon. Members when they speak to insist that the Minister shall interpret the Clause in the sense in which I have endeavoured to express it. These people are trapped. They cannot escape. There is no way out for them. There is no employment available for them there, and there is no employment available in any other part of the country. This House ought not to create an instrument that will torment them further. I beg hon. Members not to try to score party points, but to try to realise that they are dealing with the lives of men and women and that what the House decides to do to-day will determine the lives of these people in the immediate future. I have always been against the means test. It is a brutal and barbarous thing. It is inflicting punishment upon the weak and helpless members of the community. It has been imposed without the sanction of the nation and it is being perpetuated without the consent of the nation.
I am satisfied that if there were a plebiscite of the people of this country they would declare against the means test to-morrow. It is unfair, unjust, inhuman that this House should calmly perpetrate such a monstrous injustice upon decent people. It is bad enough for them to be idle, to be helpless, and to feel that society has no part, function or place for them, but to add to their sufferings by niggardly prying into their private affairs is worse still. If a person is in work 1148 and he happens to have unemployed relatives he is denied the right of being able to build a home of his own. That is what the means test does. It says to a man who is working : "You cannot save. You must keep your brother, or your sister who are unemployed, indefinitely." On the other hand, if the man happens to have a brother and a sister who are working, he will be able to save a little and to make a home for himself. It is unjust. Hon. Members cannot defend it, and I ask them to give an instruction to the Minister that he should force the board to be decent to these people, otherwise the House will have to meet these people again in another place.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
I do not think that I have ever admired the Parliamentary gifts of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) as much as I have to-day. He has been subjected to a good deal of cross-examination, but he has met the questions and the interruptions with great good humour and with great ability. It is not very easy to get the better of the hon. Member because he is able to find a fresh answer to each question, even when those answers sometimes contradict each other. I prefer to deal with the first part of his peroration. He truly said that it was the general hope of the House that the regulations and the new procedure which we are now passing into law should not operate to the injury of the people who are drawing transitional payments. We are in somewhat of a difficulty because under Mr. Speaker's ruling practically all the Amendments on the Order Paper are out of order. Therefore, we have to discuss only the main principles of the means test, with such mention of the Amendments as is allowed.
As to the general principles of the means test, I do not propose to add to the argument which has already proceeded, but I should say, and I think it is a fair summary of the situation, that the general opinion of the House, including occasionally the opinion of important members of the Opposition, and certainly the general opinion of the country, favours a means test. There is a general consensus of opinion that a means test of some kind is necessary in giving this relief as it is in giving other benefits, to which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock 1149 (Mr. K. Lindsay) referred. The hon. Member who has just spoken confessed that the bitterness, if there was bitterness, in the attacks on the means test concentrated among the people themselves not so much against the principle of the means test as against its operation with regard to the family and the household.
The House accepted the principle of the means test on the Second Reading of the Bill, and the practical question is, is it, as drawn in this Clause, drawn in the way that the majority of the Members of the House would like to see it? Are we satisfied that the administration will be the administration which we would like to see? Have we learned to the full the lessons of the past two years, or are the suggestions which the House can make suggestions which the Minister can take into account and which those responsible for framing the regulations may find of some use to them? I think there is a middle course between the two extremes which were put by the hon. Member. There is a middle course between the complete abolition of the Poor Law basis and the complete abolition of the means test. The object of the words—due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those Members whose resources are taken into account"—is, I take it, to give guidance that the regulations which are to be made shall be based upon something other than a purely Poor Law basis. I would call the attention of hon. Members to the different phraseology. The word "requirements" is used, not the word "needs." I am not a lawyer, but I take it that the word "needs" as regards interpretation, indicates a Poor Law basis, but that the word "requirements" envisages a somewhat more generous and wider view of the proper amount to be disregarded of the income of other members of a household before an assessment is made. In fact, on the regulations made under this part of the Clause will depend whether the administration of the means test is acceptable or not to the great majority of the people of the country. I hope that the Minister will consider the very widely expressed opinion in the House on this matter. I should say that the normal opinion of the House and of the country lies somewhere 1150 between the two extremes which have been put forward.
We should rate filial duty high, and parental duty high. It has always been a tradition amongst all clasess to rate very highly the duties of one member of the family towards another, whether filial or parental, but high as we rate them we do not rate them at 100 per cent. The boy or youth, or any other member of the family, is entitled to have more than merely his "needs." The word "requirements" is wider and would include what he needs for the amenities of life, the savings which he may effect in order to provide for his future, and some of the Amendments on the Order Paper have tried to fix the amount—in one case 20s. is suggested—which should be disregarded. I hope the Minister will bear in mind, when these regulations are framed, that there is a widespread view that the class of people who have fallen out of benefit, the able-bodied unemployed, available, ready and willing to work, who satisfy all these conditions, should be treated on something higher than a Poor Law basis, and that there is an expectation that the regulations will secure that a more reasonable and generous attitude is taken than might be taken if we were working on the narrow Poor Law basis which was first envisaged by the original Orders-in-Council.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that if that was the view of hon. Members on this side of the House why have we not criticised the operations of the Durham Commissioners? My answer to that is that the Durham Commissioners were governed by Orders-in-Council and that they had no authority to give any relief under transitional payment higher than the scale. Of course, the public assistance committee had given relief in addition to what the Commissioners have given, but it would have been foolish to criticise the Commissioners for not giving what was illegal. Under the regulations which will be framed under this Clause we shall not be tied by the narrow terms of the original Orders-in-Council, which belong to a period of crisis. When the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale says that I find myself in the dilemma of more money being spent and less money being saved, I reply that this 1151 is not a Bill to effect economies, and that we have got away from the period of crisis.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
The hon. Member is misquoting me somewhat. If you give more under Part II it is not that you save money but that you destroy the attractiveness of the insurance principle in Part I.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
That was the hon. Member's second argument. His first argument was wrong. When he misses the bird with his first barrel he is quite ready to come in with his second. He used the argument several times before this lucky notion came into his head. His original point was that we should be in this dilemma, that if there was a more generous interpretation there would not be the economies which he suggested it was first intended to secure. This is not an economy Bill. There will probably be a very heavy increased charge on the revenue by reason of the activities of the board. This is so widely drawn that the activities of the board may involve the country in considerable expenditure, possibly an additional expenditure arising out of the fresh inquiries which the Government are now making in the distressed areas. There are all kinds of possibilities under that part of the Bill.
I come back to what I think and believe to be the commonsense view of the House and the country. We have not to consider in this matter what Mr. A. or Mr. B. did or did not say; we have to come down to what ordinary men and women are saying, and it is my experience, and I think the experience of nearly every hon. Member, that they accept the means test as we do; they accept the view that if you draw public money to which you have not subscribed there must be some control, but they also feel that, operated as it has been under emergency Orders in Council, there have been some anomalies and some injustices. They resent them. Cases which have been put by myself show that it has operated in some instances to destroy rather than unite the family, and although they do not wish to get away from their obligations to the family they do not think it reasonable that these obligations should be rated too high. They think it is only fair that a reasonable proportion of the wages of a young man should he saved.
1152 I think that the whole question depends upon the regulations which are framed on the basis of the lines in the Bill which I have quoted, where the word "requirements" is specifically used rather than the word "needs," which I imagine indicates that it is the intention of the Government to frame regulations to meet the experience it has gained during the past two years. Unfortunately we are not able, and perhaps it would not be right to attempt, to frame an exact set of regulations. The Rules of Order have prevented us moving our Amendments, but I say that on the framing of these regulations, not upon whether they carry the assent of this House or are carried after a Debate, but upon whether they carry the assent of the people themselves, will depend their success and the success of this administration.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
Owing to the remarkable operations of the Guillotine this is the first time that we have had an opportunity of discussing the means test. In Commitee we were able to discuss one or two minor points, but the major issues, and particularly the issue of the family allowance—and I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) that this is the crux of the whole question—we have never had an opportunity of discussing since the Second Reading of the Bill. The hon. Member for Stocckton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) has drawn attention to the words which are the kernel of the Bill :such Regulations shall in particular provide that the resources of an applicant taken into account shall include the resources of all members of the household of which he is himself a member (due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account).
§ The question in the minds of all hon. Members, and in the minds of all who are interested in this matter, is simply this : How much regard is going to be had to the requirements of those members of the household whose resources are to be taken into account by the board in the future? Some days ago a speech was made by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. J. Reid), who said that it was impossible for anyone to tell whether the unemployed would be better or worse off under Part II of this Bill. That seemed 1153 to me to be a most extraordinary thing to be said by a supporter of the Bill. One of our main objections to the Bill is that we are not prepared to hand over thousands of our constituents to the jurisdiction of a board when we have no means of knowing whether their conditions would be better or worse, their standard of living higher or lower——
§ Mr. JAMES REID
What I said was that it was impossible to tell what the precise terms would be until we saw the Regulations. The hon. Member has forgotten that we shall have an opportunity of debating them.
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not know why it should be impossible. This has been the most burning political issue in many parts of the country for over two years past. Does the hon. Member think that an issue of such importance and gravity, which has aroused such criticism, is a matter which is suitably dealt with by Ministerial Regulations, which we can discuss but which we shall have no opportunity of amending? We do not think that a matter of so much moment should be dealt with in that rather off-hand way. I have listened to all these Debaes and to speeches from a number of Members in all parts of the House, and it is clear that there is no hon. Member, whatever party he may belong to, who will say that he is satisfied with the present administration of the means test. I have heard hon. Members attack with some justice the record of hon. Members above the Gangway. I have heard many criticisms and charges, but I have never heard an hon. Member of the Conservative party say that he is satisfied with the administration of the means test in his own constituency, and in this Debate there has not been a single speaker, not even the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), who has been able to make that statement.
There is no hon. Member who is able to tell at the moment whether the administration of the means test in his constituency is going to be improved. That, in itself, is to us a sufficient reason for refusing to sanction this Clause and for refusing to vote for the Bill as a whole. We all know, particularly in the matter of family allowances, that differences exist between one area and another. 1154 Although differences of practice in regard to savings and disability pensions and so on have to some extent been ironed out, even yet, in some districts, the amount which is ignored in the wages of the wage-earner is as high as 25s. while in other districts it is as low as 10s. or 11s. We do not know whether the board are going to level up or level down in that respect.
It is remarkable how frequently in the discussions on this Bill we have come up against first-lass principles. This question seems to raise a principle of vital importance to all who believe in a system of private enterprise. The mainspring of private enterprise is differentiation of rewards. Under private enterprise we say to people "If you work harder, if you sell more or produce more, if you are more successful in your trade, profession or calling you shall receive more money." That is the principle on which the system depends but that principle is being destroyed in many cases by the operation of the means test. Take the hypothetical case of a wage-earner in a family the other members of which are unemployed. He earns 30s. a week and the public assistance committee says that 15s. of that amount is to go into the family pool and 15s. is to be ignored. In other words the wage-earner keeps the other 15s. as his personal allowance. Suppose that by taking thought, by working overtime or in some way he increases his wages to 40s. a week. The amount which he is allowed to keep as a personal allowance is not increased. The only difference is that 25s. goes into the family pool. The wage-earner still retains only 15s. In other words the amount which the family is receiving in transitional payment will probably be diminished by exactly the same amount as the increase of his earnings. By working overtime or being more successful in his job he is not earning more for himself but is merely earning more for the State. That seems a thoroughly vicious principle and one which cuts at the root of a system of private enterprise.
The House will forgive me if on this occasion I repeat a suggestion which I have made previously. It is that you cannot remove the grievances which exist as to family contributions merely by having a flat rate and saying, "We shall ignore 1155 11s. or 15s. or 21s. in each case." If you want to have a system of family contributions and if it is to work equitably and justly you must have some sort of sliding scale so that, if the worker is able to increase his earnings, he will be able to put more into his own pockets and increase his personal allowance. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) that it is the view of a great majority of the Members in this House—certainly it is the view of the party which sits on these benches and of the majority of people in the country to whatever party they belong—that the principle of the means test is perfectly sound. What we on these benches feel is that a sound principle has been brought into discredit by the harsh and unjust method of its application.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Captain Sir WILLIAM BRASS
I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for Dundeed (Mr. D. Foot) and the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan). The crux of the question which we are discussing is indicated in that portion of Clause 39 which refers to the personal requirements of those members of the household Whose resources are taken into account. I had an Amendment on the Paper during the Committee stage to make that provision wider, but I am not allowed to discuss that question now. I would, however, remind my right hon. Friend the Minister who is, I know, very sympathetic on this matter, of what the Royal Commission said :The practice of regarding almost the whole income of each member of the household as available equally for all the other members is not easily defensible and we think it necessary that under any system of discretionary assessment definite guidance should be given to the assessing bodies as to the treatment of different kinds of income.'Further on in the report the commission state :The amount must depend upon the status of the applicant in relation to the household and we should expect the authority to allow a larger proportion to a single person living with his or her parents than to the head of a family. Such allowances … should be adjusted so as to leave a sufficient margin to preserve the inducement to work.I agree with the Royal Commission's view-on that matter and I agree with the hon. 1156 Member for Dundee that the principle should be kept that the more a man or woman is able to make, the more he or she should be allowed to retain out of those earnings. It seems all wrong that the younger earning members of a family should have to keep out of their earnings the older members of the family. In my constituency, unlike the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Dundee, the amount which is allowed out of the earnings is only 6s. I do not go into the question in detail but that is a very small amount indeed. The Durham Commissioners in their report to the Minister of Labour state :In the case of other earning members of the family such as wives, sons, and daughters, etc., we have allowed each wage-earner at least one-quarter of his wages for his own pocket, in addition to any reasonable sum expended by way of travelling expenses.It is different in my constituency. A quarter is not allowed there. Then the commissioners proceed—and this is an important point which I hope the Minister will bear in mind :Where the earning member owing to the nature of his occupation has a special standard to keep up, such as school teacher, clerk, etc., it has been our practice to make a substantial additional allowance for this purpose on the facts of each case.I suggest that that sort of thing ought to be taken into consideration in making these regulations under Part II. It is very important that the people in the country should feel that they are having a square deal. At the present moment the administration of the means test is such that the people do not consider that they are having a square deal. As I say, I know that the Minister is sympathetic on this question. I appeal to him to tell the House that the interpretation which he is going to place, and which he hopes that the Unemployment Assistance Board is going to place on this provision of Clause 39—due regard being had to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account"—will be on the generous side. This ought not to be a party matter at all. When the regulations come before the House, all Members, regardless of party, ought to feel that the board have taken into account all these considerations and have framed the regulations so that the earning members of the family—the younger 1157 members who as has been pointed out may be thinking of getting married—shall be allowed to retain "sufficient to keep them in normal comfort," as I put it in my Amendment during the Committee stage. If they could be allowed that, I think the House would agree with it and would be satisfied that the means test as administered under the Bill will be fair and proper. I appeal to the Minister to say that that is his opinion and I am sure that if we get that assurance it will have a great effect on the board when they come to deal with this matter.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield (Mr. Pike), who I am sorry is no longer in his place, and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) accused us of being hypocritical in bringing forward the question of the means test. They said that we had been in favour of the means test and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock—I am sorry that he also is no longer in his place—quoted with great gusto from a speech by our leader the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) the statement that he would never be a party to men or women getting anything out of the State unless investigation had been made into their means. It may be true that those statements were made and I do not deny it, but there is nothing hypocritical about our attitude. On 15th November, 1932, I moved this Amendment on behalf of this Parliamentary Labour party :That this House realising the widespread public resentment created by the injustices inherent in the present system of transitional payments cannot consent to the Second Reading of a Bill which fails to abolish the means test and does not remove the system from all association with the Poor Law.I finished my speech on that occasion with a statement which was cheered by my colleagues here, headed by our leader, who happens to be in hospital at the moment, though we hope that the day is not far distant when he will rattle this House again as he has rattled it many times before. I said at that time that it was quite in keeping with events, and that it took brave men to admit that they had made a mistake and to change their point of view. Our party are not the only men in this House who have 1158 changed their point of view. I pointed to the President of the Board of Trade, who is not only a great Free Trader himself but the son of a father who was a great Free Trader. He was born and bred a Free Trader, and is now part and parcel of the greatest Protectionist Government that this country has ever seen. The Secretary of State for Scotland was a Free Trader. So was the Minister of Mines; but there he sits on the Government Benches. There is no use in talking about change; change has nothing to do with it. I said :I can assure the House that the Labour party—and I am speaking here on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party—say that there should be no means test and that as soon as we get the opportunity we shall take it right out of the Statute Book; we shall repeal the Act root and branch. The only means test that should be applied to a man or a woman when they go to the Employment Exchange is that they should be offered a job, and if there is no job for them then it is the duty of the community to maintain them and their dependents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1932; col. 964, Vol. 270.]That statement was made on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour party on 15th November, 1932, so that there is nothing hypocritical about our making those statements here to-day. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) may be forgiven because he knows no better; he was not then a Member, and we hope that from this day onward he will not use this weapon. He was evidently prepared to go out and declare that the Parliamentary Labour party was a hypocritical party. It is not being hypocritical to be honest enough to admit that you have made a mistake.
I shall do all I possibly can to move the Minister of Labour. Everyone has paid tribute to the present Minister, but this is a question upon which he has been adamant. He will not move on this question of the means test. The Government evidently still have at the back of their minds the idea that they are dispensing justice when they apply the means test. Many of my colleagues were in favour of the means test, though I never was, and never could be. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) tells me "Not on these benches." No, hon. Members on these benches were not in favour of the Poor Law test, but they were in favour of a test. At the Labour party Conference I moved that there should be 1159 no test, but the Conference decided in favour of a test; there is no doubt about that. Nevertheless, we shall make no headway by hammering at that point. It is a fact, and facts must be accepted willy-nilly. The Labour party, however, was never in favour of the Poor Law test, as was distinctly stated by the speakers at the Conference.
It is that Poor Law test in all its harshness which is being operated now. I will prove conclusively to the House, apart from any sentimental appeal, that it is being operated ruthlessly. Only a fortnight ago I won what I considered a great case before the Minister of Pensions. I Was delighted. I had been fighting with him for months. Every organisation that the applicant could tap outside the Labour movement he had tapped—the Church, the Ex-service Men's Association, the Young Men's Christian Association—every body but a Socialist association; they had all been in contact with the Minister of Pensions on behalf of this man. After he had done all that, as a last resource he appealed to me. I took up his case and won, and the Minister of Pensions gave him a pension of 5s. a week. Now I want the House to see how the means test operates. The first week after that man had received his pension he went to the public assistance committee, and what happened? That pension was deducted, along with his other wages. Surely that evidence will satisfy the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and the Minister of Labour concerning how brutal and how ruthless the means test is in operation. Even the Germans, even Hitler, could not do anything worse than that to the Jews. Nobody could do anything worse than that to an enemy, whatever the political or religious feeling by which he was actuated, let alone to an ex-service man.
I could go on for a long time giving chapter and verse for what is going on up and down the country in the working of this means test, and how I have seen it operating in my own constituency. I am fortunate enough to have a constituency where work was fairly good up to two years ago; where men and women struggled and strove to make their children better than they were themselves and to educate them. They did not waste their substance; they were 1160 careful, frugal; they put into practice the characteristics that are supposed to belong particularly to my race. They were thrifty; they owned their own houses. Over a thousand men in Dumbarton alone owned their own houses, workers in steady employment in the shipyards. Nevertheless, the very fact that they were of that type was their misfortune. That is the type which the means test hits, and hits savagely.
Surely the Minister of Labour—and hon. Members on all sides of this House have paid tribute to him—will not harden his heart, but will give us some little concession on behalf of the decent working folk whom we represent here. The outstanding example is the well-known one of the Cunarder. When work on the Cunarder was stopped, there were about 1,500 men on it who had never been idle. They had been fortunate enough to be in a yard that had always been well employed, and thank God that this is again true of that yard to-day. Those men, however, were thrown out. Ever since the inception of the Unemployment Insurance Fund they had paid their contributions religiously, but every man, as soon as his 24 weeks were up, was put on the means test just as though he had drawn benefit for eight years. Because he had been careful and had put his money into a co-operative society, or had educated his boy or girl to be a school teacher or—as I have seen in two instances—a doctor, he was cut off without any further consideration, and there was nothing for him.
That is how the means test operates. It is a harsh and a cruel thing. It was instituted originally to catch individuals who had no right to benefit, but in catching the two or three persons of that kind in the whole of Great Britain—they are very few—the Government have penalised tens of thousands, broken up tens of thousands of homes, and driven young men to leave the parental roof-tree. The responsibility for all this hardship rests with the present Minister of Labour. Remember, Sir, that with the honour of your office goes the responsibility for what takes place in this country as a result of your administration. We on these benches are giving you an opportunity to retrieve this position.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
We have appealed here time and time again to the Minister of Labour on this question of the means test. We have now an opportunity again of putting our point of view before the House, and I want to assure the House that only those who have been through a working-class life or lived in the midst of it realise what a terrible affair this means test is. The Minister of Labour knows perfectly well that there is scarcely a town council in Scotland which has not appealed to him, irrespective of their political views. There are two distinct towns in my constituency and they are as far apart as it is possible for two towns to be—Dumbarton, which is hoary with age, and Clydebank, which is a modern town. I remember when there was no Clydebank. Two years ago the town council of Dumbarton, which at that time was practically Tory passed a unanimous resolution asking the Minister of Labour to do what he could to do away with the means test. The Clydebank Council did the same, but that is practically a Socialist council. At the same time, the means test was discussed in another very sedate assembly in Edinburgh, namely, the congregation of the Established Church of Scotland called the General Assembly. Every Christian organisation from one end of Britain to the other has protested in no uncertain fashion against the means test.
That test makes thrift a crime. It penalises the best section of the working class. In my opinion as a Socialist it is all wrong to prepare for a rainy day. With the rich what is put by is frozen capital, but with the workers what they put by is something that they require in the future. They sacrifice things and do without them whereas they should have spent their money. They should spend it wisely, of course. I spend all I get wisely. They have always had it inculcated into them to be thrifty and careful, to lay by something for the day you never see; that has been dinned into the working classes, and because they have carried it out they are penalised. The individual who, as far as his means would allow, went in for drinking and riotous living, is not hit by the means test. He escapes like a fowl from the fowler's snare, but decent men and women are penalised by it. This has a far-reaching effect because the rising generation see what is happening under 1162 the means test. They see what is happening to the father and mother because they have been careful; they see that when something happens over which the father and mother have no control they are penalised.
We live in tenements with sometimes as many as 180 souls in one tenement building, and 9, 10, 12, and 14 to two apartments. I have seen wonderful men and women coming from those conditions raised by parents who have sacrificed everything. Mothers have struggled and starved in order that their boys should be better men than their fathers. The labourer's wife had the high ideal that her boy would be a tradesman. The tradesman's wife had the ambition that her boy would belong to one of the professions. They have made every sacrifice, and from that source has sprung some of the finest men—some of them in this House, and not only on these benches—whose mothers kept lodgers in order that they might graduate in Glasgow University. That is the type which the Minister of Labour is hitting with this means test. It means so much to the working class; otherwise, I would not have risen to-day. The Minister of Labour has such power that he could modify this Clause in such a fashion that it would cheer not simply a few folk; the folk in Britain would lift up their heads just as my folk in Clydebank lifted up their heads when they knew the building of the Cunarder was to go on.
I hope the Minister of Labour will consider this from our point of view and have regard to all the pleadings he has heard and the petitions which have been sent from every section of the community calling on him to do away with the means test. It is pressing down thousands of people—our own kith and kin. Think of the incident which I quoted, in which an ex-service man got 5s. a week pension. The first week he received it, 5s. was docked from him by the public assistance committee. That is evidence of the ruthless administration of the means test. I know that the Minister of Labour will say, as he has said many times, that it was never intended that the Act should operate like that. But that is our case against it. It has always been our case, and we who have always opposed the means test thought it was a mistake to place it on the Statute Book We were 1163 told it would be operated in a generous fashion. That was said about the not-genuinely-seeking-work Clause. The Minister of Labour, Mr. Tom Shaw, said then that it would be operated generously. He operated it for only three months, when the Tories came in, and they operated that Clause in such a harsh fashion that the whole country rose in revolt against it, and the Government had to change their position. I hope the Minister of Labour will give us this other little concession and give to that decent section of the working class some hope that their struggling and striving will not go for nothing, and that those who are looking after their interests in the House of Commons will stand by the decent working-folk in the country.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
I do not wish to repeat any of the arguments we have heard to-day, but I would like to say how well the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillam), in his admirable speech, voiced the opinion of the majority of Members when he pointed out that most people are desirous that the individual man or woman, boy or girl, should feel on starting work that it does make a difference what their earnings are, and that they ought to subscribe to some extent to the family income. There is one point I would like to mention, because I do not think it has been brought up in this Debate. The word "requirements" was stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton. I would stress another word. The Bill says that the resources of an applicant to be taken into account shallinclude the resources of all members of the household of which he himself is a member.In many of our industrial areas there is overcrowding, of which we are all ashamed, and on account of that overcrowding we find living in one house, sometimes in very few rooms, not what we ordinarily call one family but what I might almost call a tribe—brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are all there together. They are different families, but they have to live together because of the housing conditions, though each family is waiting for an individual house. When assessing means we ought to take into account what is the normal household, the normal 1164 family. Often the unit taken as the household is so large that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction. That would have been avoided if the housing problem had not been so serious. Hon. Members have spoken of the filial duty of a son to give something to the support of his family and of parents to give something to the support of their children, but where there is not one family unit but a much larger unit in a home—because of our failure to provide fitting housing accommodation—it is not fair and it is not right that those people should have to suffer by being assessed to support those who would not normally be living in the house. I have brought this point to the notice of the Minister once or twice, because in our overcrowded districts it is one of the real difficulties accompanying the means test. It has caused a great deal of bitterness in the hearts of many people. In the overcrowded districts of Dundee families have had to live together in a very small house although wanting separate houses of their own, and because they have come together like that, one family having taken in the others, who were living under terrible conditions, they suffer by having their means assessed as one family.
§ The question of the individual assessment has been raised this afternoon. Many of us would like to see £1 or some other sum put into the Bill as the amount to be taken into account in respect of the individual person, but if such a definite amount cannot be inserted in the Bill we want it to be made clear that the individual person should have a real assessment of his or her requirements. I should also like to stress the fact that not only should the individual person's requirements be taken into account but that account should be taken of what the individual family consists of. As soon as we get better houses, as soon as we are able to "decrowd" some of our big towns, there will be a greater chance for these people, because it does not seem fair that where there is no overcrowding the effect of the means test should not be felt in the same way.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mrs. RUNGE
While I am a wholehearted supporter of the means test, I think there are many injustices in its administration in the assessment of the 1165 resources of a family. A big slice of the income of those who form part of the household should be disregarded. The Bill says merely that due regard is to be had to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account. What does "due regard" mean? It seems to me that it does not mean anything in particular, because it can be made to carry any construction people like to put upon it. It reminds me of the word "reasonable" which has been criticised so much during the passage of this Bill. That also can be interpreted according to the wishes of the interpreter. Everyone is agreed that some sum should be disregarded, but we cannot agree on what the sum should be, and as a consequence there has been constant trouble all over the country on account of some local authorities having been more lenient than others. There will be exactly the same trouble when the Unemployment Assistance Board gets to work through its officials. To leave too much elasticity to local committees, advisory committees or the officials of the Unemployment Assistance Board will be a very great mistake. I have seen enough of elasticity and know what it means. It means, in practice, that some of the younger generation see practically the whole of their earnings taken into the family exchequer and themselves left with only a few shillings for their own needs.
If there is not a fixed sum we shall soon find that the younger generation will not think it worth while to work at all. I appeal to the Minister to give the younger generation some incentive to work by leaving them with sufficient of their own earnings at least to clothe themselves according to the needs of their jobs and to get a little recreation and pleasure. The young people are quite all right; they are ready and willing to help their relatives so long as they are not forced to disgorge practically their last shilling. The present system is really demoralising, and I hope the Minister will bear in mind the recommendations of the Royal Commission on this point.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
I wish to join in the protest against this Clause, and to ask the Minister to pay some attention to the appeals made to him from all quarters 1166 of the House. The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) has said to-night that the means test has caused a great deal of bitterness. As one who for two years after the last election was very closely concerned with the people under the means test I go so far as to say that I know nothing which has caused more bitterness in industrial districts than the means test. It stabilises poverty. In the mining industry we have a kind of sliding scale of wages for young persons; each six months they get an increase of wages. When a lad gets to 17½ or 18 he gets the highest step up if he goes to the coal face. The very moment he gets that increase of wages he finds the allowance of his unemployed father cut down, because more money is coming into the house. That takes away from the lad any incentive he may have had to strive for a good wage. Take the case of a single person. To my mind it is absolutely wrong to reduce a single man's allowance from 15s. 3d. to 10s. because he happens to be lodging with somebody who is no relation at all but has an income of one kind or another. I mentioned in the House 12 months ago the case of a single man in my constituency. He was 53 years of age, and a thrifty type of man, who took a keen interest in friendly society work. He lodged with an old age pensioner, but because the old age pensioner had 10s. a week coming in the man's allowance was reduced from 15s. 3d. to 10s. Rather than live on part of the income of the old age pensioner the man committed suicide.
Case after case could be quoted to show what is taking place. The Minister of Labour tries to justify this Clause by saying that it is expected to take away the worst features of the means test as at present administered. That will depend largely on how the regulations are framed. If we knew what the regulations were to be, and knew what amounts were going to be allowed to the other members of the household, we might be-able to modify our arguments against this. Clause. There are some hon. Members who say that at least £1 a week should be allowed to another member of the household out of his earnings. I listened a few weeks ago to a speech on the wireless by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) in which he said that it was the opinion of the Liberal party that there ought to be a modification 1167 of the means test. May I say that £1 a week is not sufficient inside the household? If young men and young women of 18 to 25 who are bringing £2 or 50s. a week into the household are to be allowed only £1 a week to live on that is not sufficient. Anybody who has been unfortunate enough to have experience as a lodger will know that one cannot get decent "digs" for £1. I had 17 years as a lodger after my parents died, and I know that £1 a week is not sufficient. These young people need clothes and want recreation. Many of them want to get married. What prospect is there of their saving a few shillings with which to get a home together? There is an accumulation of evidence to show how hardly the means test is operating, and again I express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention to this question.
There is another phase of the matter. The means test compels people to do things which they otherwise would not do. Suppose a father is applying for assistance under Part II of the Bill and his application is turned down, or he is given very meagre relief because he has a son earning a decent wage. If that young man cares to go to lodge next door, or in the next street, with somebody who is not applying for assistance, the father may get the full allowance. I know a striking example in the case of a young man who is a very good footballer. He is a paid football player. As long as he was at home what he received every week as a footballer had to keep the entire family. No allowance was made to the father. Then that young man was transferred to the South of England, and the very moment he was transferred the father got the full allowance. That kind of thing is not good enough. Then take the case of a family where the parents are trying to give the daughter a chance. She is working, maybe, in an office in the City. If her father is unemployed and applies for assistance, there will be a lot of inquisitorial investigation, which will cause a good deal of uneasiness and a good deal of annoyance to that girl.
Another phase of this question ought to be discussed. What crime have these people committed who will be relieved under Part II? Their only crime is that they have been out of work for longer 1168 than six months. To-day it is largely a matter of chance who gets work in some of the heavy industries. There are men whom industry does not want. They are out of work because nobody can employ them at a profit. If they could be employed at a profit, they would all be working to-morrow. These men are unwanted by industry, and we say, "Reorganise industry and absorb them, by all means, but the men for whom there is no work ought to have at least a decent standard of comfort." As far as I know, the only people drawing money from the State who have a means test applied to them are those who have been out of work longer than six months.
There are other people drawing money from the State with no means test applied, and I will give some illustrations. This generous nation has paid a pension, since the days of Trafalgar, of £5,000 a year, without any means test. The agricultural industry for a number of years had half its rates paid by the State, without any means test, and now it gets the whole of its rate paid by the State, without any means test. I am not complaining about assistance being given to agriculture, but no hon. Member will stand up in this House and say that all farmers are doing badly, because they are not, and if hon. Members cared to look at the long list of wills that have been declared recently of people connected with the farming industry, they would know that some of them have been making money, but there is no means test applied.
Take the mining industry. This nation paid nearly £30,000,000 in subsidies to the mining industry, without any means test, but at that time there were colliery owners whom I knew who admitted that they were making from 5s. to 6s. a ton, and if the right hon. Member for Darwen were here, he would agree with me when I say that some prominent coal-owners in this country were frank enough to admit that they did not want the subsidy, and that it was money for nothing; but there was no means test applied to the mining industry. Take sugar beet. Will anybody say that the sugar beet people are not making profits? But we are still giving a subsidy there, without any means test at all.
Why should the only people who have a means test applied to them be those 1169 who are out of work? I cannot understand it, and, as I say, I know of nothing that has caused and is causing more bitterness than the way in which it is being operated. I represent a constituency now, and have for 12 months past, that has a long history of industrial trouble. The Featherstone district is well known. Those people have just passed another 26 weeks' stoppage, and there are thousands of them who have been dealt with under the means test, and I can tell the House that the poverty in that district and in other parts of my division almost makes one cry when one hears about it. The only crime, if it be a crime, that these people have committed is that they have been unfortunate enough to get out of work. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary. I know that he agrees with his right hon. Friend in thinking that these regulations are going to be more generous to people than they are at present, but I want him to take some notice of the appeals that have been made. I could understand the Government's point of view if they imposed a means test on the individual and not on the household, but the household means test is in some respects even worse than the old Poor Law system. In the old Poor Law days a brother was not liable to maintain his sister nor a sister her brother, but here, simply because people live under the same roof and come to a common table, all the income has to be taken into account.
I am opposed to the means test, because I believe the unemployed have a right to a decent standard of life and because I know how it has operated from 1931 to date. The hon. Gentleman may say in reply that the electors of this country backed the means test in 1931, but the answer to that is that it was not operating then to the same extent that it is to-day, and the House must remember that the Government had to bring in Amendments in reference to ex-service pensions and workmen's compensation, and they did that because there was a public opinion outside that was clamouring for some redress. I think sufficient has been said to convince the Minister of Labour and his Parliamentary Secretary that this is not merely a political agitation from one political party, when Members supporting the Government, 1170 Members of the Liberal party, and Members on these benches unite in asking for this Clause to be withdrawn and for something better to be put in its place. I hope that, when we get a reply to-night, we shall not have the same stereotyped, automatic refusal that we have had on a good many of these Amendments, but that we shall get from the Government some promise of redress in this direction, which, I am sure, will be appreciated by those who have to come under Part II of the Bill.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
I agree with the last speaker that the administration of this means test has caused bitterness, and I felt it at the by-election which I recently fought. I felt that there was a great deal in that administration which was faulty, but I do not wish to deal with the general aspect of the question. There is one particular point that I want to bring forward, on which I would like to ask for an assurance from the Minister, and it is this : We have in the north certain so-called devastated areas, places like Jarrow, Stockton and so on. About 18 months ago there were similar towns and districts in the United States of America, where men were living in a hopeless condition and where practically the whole population was out of work. In certain of those towns people got together, and the unemployed started making goods, first in quite a small way, then exchanging their goods and services, improvising their own technique of exchange, and some of those towns which had been in a state of absolute despair achieved not only some kind of moderate prosperity, but a return of hope. The people felt that they were helping themselves, that they were doing things; they were not sitting in idle despair, a prey to unemployment.
I feel that if in such a town as Jarrow you could get all parties together and, instead of waiting in idleness, say, "Let us organise and see if these people can start exchanging goods and services," starting in a very small way, it would be a good thing. If they could get going, however, would it not be possible that the means test might operate in such a way as to prevent them continuing? If they started making good3 in quite a small way, earning money from their 1171 goods and services, and the means test operated unfortunately, it might check the movement, and if that could be avoided, such efforts as I have described might lift such towns from a state of despair.
In the administration of this test it appears to me that we ought to consider certain general principles, and those principles I find in the lives and in the political speeches of former leaders of the party to which I have the honour to belong, the Tory party. The first principle is the safeguarding of the family. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said the family was no longer a social unit There is no doubt that all over the world forces are attacking the family and tending to disintegrate the family, and I feel that it should be the particular province of our party to preserve the family in the future and to safeguard it in every possible way. Therefore, I feel that the working of the means test should be such as not in any way to damage the family. I realise fully that it is right and proper that children should contribute to the support of their parents, but I think their contribution should be so fixed that those children not only shall have an inducement to earn more, but that they shall be encouraged to save money and to establish homes of their own.
The second principle I find is the encouragement and defence of property and the increase of small property owners. Therefore, I welcome in this Bill the fact that the inroads on capital are extremely small, though I frankly say that I would have preferred that the capital should have been left intact and only the interest taken into account. The third and final principle for which our party stands is to maintain in every possible way the health of the people. We know that Tory Members of Parliament fought for and obtained the early Factory Acts, because they felt that the industrial system then at work was undermining the health of our people, and that on the health and physique of our people our national strength and greatness depended. I feel here again that we must so work our institutions, such as the means test, as not in any way to damage the national health, on which all depends, and which has 1172 already been so gravely impaired during the last hundred years.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made a remark about the Unemployment Assistance Board lowering standards as compared with the public assistance committees, but I am quite sure from my reading of the Bill and from listening to the speeches on it that this new Bill will give generally a higher standard than that given by the public assistance committees. I feel that it can be used as an instrument to improve the health and condition of our people, and I am sure that it will be so used. The administration of the Bill will be more than a test for the National Government; it will be a test for the whole nation. I remember the words of that fine old Tory writer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, words which I thoroughly endorse, when he said :The test of a civilisation is its treatment of the poor.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I rise to support the rejection of the Clause, because I feel that the basis on which this test rests is one which will work considerable harm in many respects and will certainly be unwelcome in London, in the great industrial centres of this county, and will result in a tremendous amount of difficulty in many directions. We have recently passed in this House an Act which has removed the control over rents for houses of a certain class which had previously existed. I do not think one can overemphasise the importance of the hardships of those provisions, when one is examining a Clause of this kind, because that Act has meant that a large number of people are now unable to maintain the establishments that they had in the past, and have to depend to a considerable extent upon their own relatives, so that they may be able to keep a roof over their heads. Now, on the one hand, because houses are de-controlled, the householder has to rely upon his immediate family to remain with him, while, on the other hand, the family are not in a position to remain under the same roof in many cases because they feel that the working of a Clause of this description is bound to bring a considerable amount of difficulty and damage to them.
If that happens and they examine the matter from the material point of view, the family has to make up its mind on 1173 the one hand whether it will remain in its house—because the provision of accommodation is not so plentiful that it can divide itself easier into two or three houses—it has to decide whether it will remain together and help to pay a rent which may be exorbitant, or whether, on the other hand, it is going to split up so that the individual members of the house hold may have the proper benefit of their respective earnings. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to take that into consideration. It is a tremendous consideration, I can assure him, from the point of view of a large section of the community who are suffering very heavily because of the provisions of the Act, and who to-day when they are discussing their future among themselves have to take into consideration the necessity of bringing as many of the members of a family under one roof as they possibly can so that the rent can be paid.
I represent a constituency which has a large portion of its men working, or rather, who were at one time working, at the docks. Shipping, as we know, is not in such a state as to be able at this time to give employment to the vast majority of those whom it employed before, and many of these men who have built up homes are anxious to keep under their wing the families they have reared. They want to see that their children shall be kept under proper guidance. Some of these men and their wives who are anxious that the morale of the family should be maintained, have to decide between keeping their children in their homes, allowing them to go to work in the city or the West-End of London, or to allow them to take their places in shops and establishments some distance from their homes and live near their employment or in the places of their employent, so that they may not be put to the expense and the trouble which this Clause provides for those who live within the household itself. This is a very serious consideration, and I think at the present time, when the morale of the community is being so seriously affected by the tremendous amount of unemployment which exists, everything should be done to assist family life and those who are anxious that their children should have a proper guidance, so that the one 1174 member of the family who is earning will at least retain some scrap of morale in the household and give some happiness and comfort to those who are not earning.
Is not the position this? We say, or we are attempting to" say, that a man who has been unemployed for more than six months is entitled by right, and not through any charity on our part, to be maintained in a respectable and decent manner, that he does not come and ask for charity. If we mean what we say, we must put it on, the footing that when a person applies for relief under this Bill, being in need of it he is entitled to receive it, and therefore when we are considering whether anyone else should contribute towards his relief or not it is not a question of the applicant being homeless or throwing himself on the mercy of charitable relief, but purely and simply a question whether the State is dealing properly with him, and with his child or another member of the household. All other things being out of the question, what is that child going to do? What is that member of the household going to do? Every member of the household who wants to carve out a future for himself or herself is not only going to leave the household through his or her own volition, but will probably be persuaded by the parents to do so. No individual can gauge to a nicety what are the requirements of, let us say, a young woman or a young man serving in a shop. No person can gauge to a nicety the cost to that person of keeping up appearances in the hope of receiving better employment at a later stage. No board and no body of assessors will be able to gauge within many pounds what the requirements are of these people who desire to provide for the day when they will become married, and so on.
A hundred and one matters are best known to the individual himself, to his parents and the other members of the household, and they will not be in a position, and it is unreasonable to put them in a position, of having to come forward and ask to be assessed at a certain rate because of the conditions in their respective households. The anomalies that are bound to arise are such that they do not justify the retention of a Clause of this description in any circumstances. I would 1175 point out, too, what must be very well known to Members of the House, that in districts where unemployment is rife and where money is scarce even for those who are employed, mot only do the members of the household look after the needs of their immediate families, but if anything happens in a neighbour's house the neighbourly hand is extended in a manner which draws the admiration of everybody who knows of it, and which would undoubtedly meet with the approval of everybody who hears of it. Who is to gauge whether the members of the household are doing right by helping their neighbours? Is the State or is it not going to decide definitely that a person who is out of work must be given that which is due to him for his sustenance, or at least the sum we consider should be given to him for that purpose?
Is it proper that distinctions should be drawn between one household and another simply because the individuals of the one family desire to live together and to retain the family tradition of maintaining one roof over their heads? Are they, merely because of that, to be compelled to do something which in other circumstances they would not be called upon to do, and which owing to the future for which they have to provide in many instances they ought not to be called upon to do? There can be no reasonable reply to the arguments which have been put forward in favour of the removal of this Clause, and I would like to support the contention adduced by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot). I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary is going to answer the question that was so well put by him with regard to the men who really want to get on. How are you going to give a member of the household who really is struggling hard and wants to improve his position and get a higher salary, to put himself in a position of trust in the work he is performing the inducement to do so? How are you going to cope with the difficulty that that individual will encounter when he is considering, not whether it is worth while to help his parents—it is not a question of helping his parents because he will not give them any more assistance by working harder—and not whether he will help any other 1176 member of the household, because if he does work harder it will not bring a pennypiece more to those in his household, but whether he will merely be exerting his energies for the purpose of providing a relief to the State funds which ought properly to be utilised for the purpose of relieving those who are unemployed?
I do not see any reply which can possibly be vouchsafed to that argument. In the long run, if the moral of the people and the advancement of those who are working to improve their lot, are to be considered, I do not see how a Clause of this description is going to promote the benefits which we would like to see accruing to these men who have that type of ambition, a justifiable and commendable ambition to get on. It may be said, of course, that the very fact that one gets on and feels one is in a more responsible position will in itself be an inducement, but how is that going to be the case when the person himself realises that the lot of those whom he wants to help will not be in the slightest way improved and his own position will not be improved either? In other words, he will merely be on the surface of things in a better position, but actually in precisely the same position that he was in before. For my part I hope this basis of using the household as a test will be discarded altogether, and that instead of pressing for the retention of this Clause we shall have an admission on the part of the Government that the arguments from all parts of the House are sufficiently strong to induce them to let the Clause go.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am glad of the opportunity to oppose the means test again. We have had a bitter experience of the means test in the county of Durham. It has been operated there in all its ruthless-ness, and, after the long experience we have had, we are bound to say that it is the most diabolical machine ever invented to depress the working classes. We have seen not a few but whole communities in the county of Durham pushed further and further down into the gutter of poverty by the operation of this means test. It means far more to some of us from the depressed areas than to other Members of the House. In the middle of March, the week ended 19th March, we had in 1177 the county of Durham 29,385 in receipt of benefit, but we had no less than 94,274 drawing transitional payments. In the same week we had 15,505 unemployed men on poor relief. We have seen the means test used to impoverish our people, and that makes us glad when we get a chance to voice our objection to its continuance. This Clause provides new machinery for the operation of the means test, worse even than that which is in operation to-day, and we see no hope for our people. Under the new machinery, our folk will be crushed more quickly and deeper than at the present time.
What happens to us in the north of England is to be applied to the working classes all over the country, and our sympathy goes out to those who will experience what we have experienced in Durham. Only Rotherham and Durham have had commissioners. In the rest of the country, the means test has been operated through public assistance committees, but if the whole country is now to come under commissioners, we say, "God help the working classes." Our people in the county of Durham who are under the means test come to the offices of the commissioners in fear and trembling. Men have said to me, "We are almost afraid, when we go into the offices to pass the means test or to receive benefit, that our benefit may be stopped or reduced." Fear has entered into the hearts of many thousands of those men and they are like sheep being led to the slaughter when they go into the means test offices.
In the earlier part of the Debate hon. Members have been talking about 1931. The difference between to-day and 1931 is that the means test was then applied as an economy measure. When the means test was first installed, it was new, and working men scarcely realised, and no one in this House realised, what it would mean in operation. When the Government came to the conclusion, two or three weeks ago, that they would do something for the unemployed by restoring the cuts, they should have given first consideration to those who had been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and who came under the means test. Those people needed and deserved more consideration, and if they expected it, that was because such action would have been in keeping with the promises made by the 1178 Prime Minister. I shall refer to one or two statements made by the Prime Minister the last time he addressed his constituents in Seaham, not long ago. In regard to the restoration of the cuts he is reported to have said that the Governmentwere not going to favour one class of the community against another. It was to be an equitable distribution, and as they were partners in bearing, so they would be partners in sharing.I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, what is the share that has been restored to those who come under the means test? They are left without any consideration at all. They ought to have received first consideration. It could have been done, because the Prime Minister, in that same speech, referred to the fact that the Government were increasing the time for benefit on the Insurance Fund from 26 weeks to 52 weeks. I think he made a mistake in that statement, but it might be a printer's error. He said :We have decided to double the period of insurance making it 52 weeks instead of 26, instead of halving it, as was wrongly stated here and in a Labour newspaper. Thus, we double the period when those who are unemployed keep within insurance, and are therefore independent of any outside authority. They are statutorily protected for an extra 26 weeks. Look at the most beneficial effect that is going to have in the application of the means test, which does not apply during those extra weeks. It is when you come out of insurance that the means test comes in, and if we could get that fund in a position which would keep you always in insurance you would not be required to abolish the means test at all, because there would be no conditions under which the means test would be applied.There is the line that the Government might be said to have taken, and one can scracely think that they were not aware of the statement so recently made by the Prime Minister that the ordinary working man was to have 52 weeks' instead of 26 weeks' insurance. The Government might have utilised that in order to extend the period of benefit on the fund, so that a great many men who are not on the means test, and who fall out of insurance after 26 weeks, could be kept within the fund. With the fund making such a large surplus, one of the best ways that the Ministry could utilise that surplus is not to push men on to the means test any more than could be avoided; if there is a surplus, keep them in insurance even more than 52 weeks. That would be a much better way than 1179 pushing them out of the fund and on to the means test.
With the machinery that is being created, unemployed men under the means test will be in a worse position than they are to-day. The new machinery will be operated by one official who will have no knowledge of the people with whom he is dealing. A man may come from the South of England and be sent to the North of England to operate the means test, as the official under the Unemployment Assistance Board. He may have no knowledge whatever of the people with whom he is dealing, but when he is there, he is king, and the recipients are helpless. There will be no transitional payments then, and the recipient who comes for public relief will have to watch his steps. If he does not go into the office properly and salute in the proper manner, away will go his relief. When his relief is stopped, then there will be nothing but the workhouse for him and his wife and bairns.
Therefore, while one cannot imagine that all officials would be foolish, one can see that, under some officials as we know them, recipients will have to be extremely careful. Moreover, under this new machinery the officials will not have the advantage that those who have been administering transitional benefit in the past have had. They have had transitional benefit as a standard to guide them in assessing needs, but under this new machinery transitional benefit will be abolished. It is all very well for the Government to say that, transitional benefit being abolished, the recipient can be paid more or he might be paid less than the transitional benefit. I would like to see the man that will be paid more. I cannot imagine any of the recipients of transitional benefit who have come under the means test receiving more than is received by the man who is on standard benefit under the fund.
The recipient has to state to the official what are his needs. One has not time to stop, as there are so many Members who desire to speak, to examine the word "need" and the needs of the man who is applying under the means test, or of his family, because those needs vary, and they will be great. I have said that in my opinion the men who come under this new machinery will be worse off than they 1180 are now under the means test, and I consider that men who have been taken from Poor Law relief and put on to national relief will be worse off than they were under the Poor Law. Under the Poor Law they could appeal to the local elected members, from whom they could always be sure of receiving a little sympathy. Their cases were investigated by the relieving officer. Now the need of the family may be decided by a young civil servant with no experience. If I had to have my case settled as to the amount of relief that I should receive, I would prefer that it should be settled by a committee of a public assistance committee rather than by an official of the Civil Service. When the Prime Minister was making his last speech, he said that the able-bodied unemployed were now to be taken away from the Poor Law. He said :Great numbers of people now left unregistered as unemployed and handed over to the Poor Law authorities are going to be taken in in bulk and added to the people who are being taken care of under the provisions of the Bill.If by taking care of the unemployed he means putting them on to this national relief committee, I would not like to describe it by that term. When this Bill comes into operation, the means test will be administered in accordance with regulations which are to be agreed to, but what those regulations will be we do not at the moment know. There are, however, two or three things which they will not touch. One of them is workmen's compensation. In the case of workmen's compensation, to the disgrace of the Government, only 50 per cent. is to be taken into consideration. While the Government could deal with disability pensions, they had no sympathy with workmen in receipt of workmen's compensation. Under the regulations they could deal with Service pensions, and I want to mention these because I put a question to the Minister of Labour one day last week about them, and got no satisfaction from him. One finds that under the Commissioners in Durham last December they issued on order to those who were in receipt of reserve pay, to this effect :Reserve pay when reseived on the 1st January, 1934, will be treated for the purpose of determination of transitional payments as if it were wages for that week, and will be regarded as household income, whether received by the applicant or by a 1181 member of his household whose wages would ordinarily be treated as household income.Since I asked that question I have had another letter in which the writer says that his transitional benefit was not only stopped for one week, but for two weeks, because of his reserve pay. I consider that the Government ought to have taken some steps to deal with hard cases like those which come under the means test, and ought not to allow them to continue under the new Bill as they have in the past.
The means test means that there will be a continuation of the most minute inquiry into all the resources of the household. We have had some experience of that. I have here one of the forms that a man under the means test in the county of Durham has to fill up. Some hon. Members complain about filling up Income Tax papers. They should have this paper to fill up, and then they would never complain again about filling up Income Tax papers. The man has to fill in his name and address, the names of all the family, the relationship, the age of each one, the occupation of each one, and, if working, to give the full name and address of the employer. Then the income of the family has to be stated. They have to put down the name, the relationship, the earnings, what is received from health benefit, widows' or orphans' pensions, old age pensions, workmen's compensation, service pension, disability pension, and income from other sources, and then they have to deal with the question of property or savings. Then there are spaces on the back of the form which have to be filled in whenever there is an alteration in income, and the space on the back of the form not only deals with income, but it says this :I declare that the income and expenses of my household are the same as stated by me overleaf.Under the means test, therefore, the man has not only to state his income; he has to state again and again both his income and his expenses. I consider that to be a disgrace. I conclude with another quotation from the Prime Minister on the means test. He said this :The means test must be specially considered. In principle it was absolutely just, and it was a matter in which the Labour party had concurred. But he thought the rules and regulations could be revised. Any means test which tended towards the 1182 disruption of family life was bad in its application.I want to re-read those last words for the benefit of the Parliamentary Secretary. This is the Prime Minister's statement only recently :Any means test which tended towards the disruption of family life was bad in its application.We could give case after case of sons who have been compelled to leave home because of the means test. It is destructive of the family, and we have a right to expect that the Government will carry out the promise of the Prime Minister and abolish it.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLAY
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was indignant because some of us, he suggested, accused the Labour Party of hypocrisy. I think we do, because they continually go about the constituencies preaching that they would do away with every form of means test, and that we should have what has been described as indiscriminate largesse. [HON. MEMBERS : "Who said that?"] I say it would be indiscriminate largesse, and I cannot believe that the Labour party in power could ever bring themselves to carry out what they say they would do. The means test in some areas is obviously being worked well, and in others it is causing dissatisfaction. I am not quite clear whether under this Clause we have any guarantee that it will be possible to do away with the various differentiations, and I hope we shall hear something which will lead us to believe that the differentiations in the various districts will be tightened up, that one area will not have a harder time than another, and that a case such as the hon. Member for Dumbarton quoted will not be possible under the Bill.
I should like to ask whether there is any general inquiry into the vexed question of the whole family income being taken into account. Can the Ministry say how much it would cost if the means test was applied to the individual only, because when one looks into the question it seems that the disadvantages of it may outweigh the advantages. We all agree that children should help their parents in distress, and vice versá, but has there been any full inquiry into 1183 the position as revealed to-day, to see whether the disadvantages of the system outweigh the advantages? Many parts of the means test were purposely brought in for the purposes of economy during the financial crisis. To-day the financial position is easier, and I think the feeling of the country is that there should be some relaxation in some of the harder parts of the means test. I should like to hear whether the Minister has inquired very fully into the question of the family income being left out. Subsection (2) says that the amount of any allowance granted to an applicant shall be determined by reference to his needs. It should be kept in mind that needs should include self-esteem, because so many persons who are being kept by their children have lost their self-esteem.
Perhaps the Minister will make it clear that the regulations will at least imply that self-esteem should be kept in mind. The basis of the means test should not under Part II be Poor Law, because today so many persons are unable to find work though willing, and their treatment should be on a different basis from the old system. Finally, account should be taken of a man who is contributing to the family income, and if he obtains an increase in wages, some part of the increase should be disregarded; otherwise he is really working for the State instead of for himself. This point was fully brought out by the senior Member for Dundee, and I hope the Minister will consider this point.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
The Debate has been interesting if only because we have been able to get the opinions of members of the other parties. With the exception of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) no hon. Member opposite who has spoken has been wholeheartedly in favour of the means test. He himself stood by it in its present form. I would urge upon him not to be so much impressed by local affairs because there happens to be a Socialist majority in the part of the country that he represents. It seems to me that local colour is obsessing the hon. Member's mind. I wish he would take a broader-minded view and try to remove himself from certain petty things that may have 1184 happened when he went home to meet his people.
The last speaker and others have shown that they are not wholly in favour of the means test as applied. One by one they point out where it should be relaxed. If the principle of the means test is going to be narrowed until it comes to a point where it is hardly worth while applying, why go to the expense of having a set of officials to examine into the means of everyone's household, which is causing unrest throughout the country and which, it must be evident to everyone, can only bring in very little to the State. I know now that hon. Members are getting more democratic in their outlook. I know one Member who believes in getting in touch with the people direct, and I believe other Members are doing that. When they meet their people, they meet with the same thing as we do. When the bare facts are put before them, they begin to realise that they are harsher than they intended to be, and they promise, when the matter comes up again, to see what can be done to relieve the hardship of a particular household, because it is unfair for every member of the household to be brought in and his means examined.
From another part of the audience another case is put which is almost as hard as the previous one, and again sympathy overflows. To the notice of the hon. Member there is brought a point of view which he has never seen before, and he says, "I will deal with that." So we have here this afternoon hon. Members trying to square their consciences with what they have said to their constituents, and they will expect their constituents to read what they have said. They will say, "I tried to point out your hardships and suffering, I brought the matter to the notice of the House, and tried to get the Minister to see my point of view. You cannot blame me. I did all that I could." Hon. Members will try that argument when they go back to their constituencies. With so many hardships and causes of unrest in the country, surely we ought to have the courage to say, "What is the use of carrying on with this kind of thing any longer? The country has recovered somewhat from its difficulties; let us at least give back to the people something to which they are entitled."
There are two main points which emerge from this Debate. They are 1185 characteristic of, and belong so essentially to, the English people. One is thrift, a characteristic which has stood out prominently in the English race for a long time. The argument has always been, "Do not squander your money, but try to save it for what might happen in regard to illness or misfortune." If we see a man showing signs of drink and his family is in want because of that fact we urge him to become a respectable citizen, to save his money, to look after his family, and to prepare for a rainy day. When people have shown themselves to be thrifty they have been respected and looked upon as the right type of citizens. Much of the greatness of this country has depended on that class of person.
But what does this Bill do? It is in effect saying to those people who have been thrifty and have probably suffered privations in order to put a little by : "The man who has turned out to be a scoundrel and has not troubled at all to save has no means now, and he is to get the full benefit. You were thrifty and tried to save, but now we have altered our point of view, and because you did that, we of the great Tory party say that because the State is in danger you have to be penalised and give back some of your savings." The former says : "Did not you say that it was best to save? And you reply :" Yes, I believe I did, but things have changed since then. We cannot hand State money to people who have money." Such a man wonders whether he has been told the right kind of story, and he begins to think that if ever he gets a chance again it will not be worth while to be careful and thrifty.
§ Mr. HOWARD
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, pursuing that line of thought, he would be prepared to abolish all Death Duties because a man has to give up something of what he has saved?
§ Mr. TINKER
No, I would not. I would say that at death I believe in the State taking as much as it can. But that is an interesting point to be followed by other speakers. The second point I wish to emphasise is that of family life, which is a very strong characteristic of our people. I believe in the members of the family helping each other and doing all they can to stand together, but there are hundreds of instances where families 1186 are breaking up because of the present conditions. It may be called subterfuge when sons and daughters leave the family circle, but they are doing it. I would rather fight the question on principle and try to get the State to recognise that to which they are entitled, rather than that they should have to go from home. But there it is. This sort of thing is happening.
If hon. Members like to ask their people they will be told by various members in the audience, "I left my home because I knew that if I got away my father or sister would get full relief." I hope that those who value the strength of the State, which has been built up on its citizenship, will realise what they are doing in this Bill. The means test which was introduced in 1931 by the National Government is to be made permanent under this Bill. It will kill thrift and family life. I stand clearly and emphatically against any kind of means test. I am prepared to go on any platform and debate with any Members of the other side and prove that I am more in the right than they. I wish that hon. Members on the other side who are putting forward all kinds of excuses would realise what it all means and say, "Let us clear away the means test and go on as before."
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. MARTIN
I have always had a great respect for the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), but I am afraid that to-night his argument has somewhat weakened my respect for his intelligence. I do not understand how an intelligent man can possibly argue that this Bill is going to undermine the family because anyone who puts anything by for a rainy day is, when that rainy day comes, being done an injustice if he has to use what he has put by. The accusation which the hon. Member made against hon. Members on this side of the House could easily be used against himself. If he says that we are putting forward only those arguments which we think will please our constituents, surely we can say with equal justice that he is offering unlimited State money to people purely in order to get their support. If we can believe what has been said in this House by many hon. Members who were concerned with the action of his own party some time ago when this question was discussed, it is rather extraordinary 1187 that he, whom I have always considered a more moderate member of his party, should go so far as to denounce the means test root and branch, when his own leaders at a former date were by no means so hearty in denunciation of the means test.
§ Mr. TINKER
I have never departed one iota from my attitude on the means test—on all occasions I have been straightforward—so far as it relates to the unemployed.
§ Mr. MARTIN
The hon. Member has not been quite so extreme as he is tonight. Let us consider the problem from the point of view from which he put it before us. Let us consider whether hon. Members opposite are really considering exactly how it would work out if they had to administer it. If they gave unlimited State money to all sections of the population, whatever their means might be, have they considered exactly how it would apply to the Exchequer and work out in practice? Has the hon. Member considered what would be the attitude of those people who have put by something for a rainy day and have been the exemplary kind of family which he admires and which we all admire? What would their attitude be if there were no form of means test and anybody could come along and get money, whether they had been thrifty or not? I have found over and over again that it is exactly those people whom the hon. Member admires so much who say that it is a good thing that there is a means test, although they may object in occasional instances to the actual application of the test—it may be to a particular officer who comes round and causes unpleasantness in the home. Those are purely isolated cases; they are not general. Anyone who comes from a depressed area, where this subject is boomed so much on the Labour party platforms, will agree most heartily that it is the finer type of people throughout the industrial areas who believe in the soundness of some form of means test. I do not know about South Wales, but I believe that to be the case in the north country.
§ Mr. MARTIN
At the county council elections, unfortunately, there was exactly the sort of appeal that the hon. Member and his friends will make at the General Election, but I believe that by that time the answer will be very much to their disadvantage.
Let me come to another consideration, which is an important one. One hon. Member said, with a great deal of truth, that those who had been unemployed for some time needed more assistance. There is a great deal to be said for the argument which the Minister of Labour, in his wisdom, has put forward with regard to the training centres and other forms of activity in which unemployed men sometimes indulge He has issued a circular which says that a person who works on an allotment may be allowed a certain income from that allotment without losing any of his unemployment money. I believe that to be perfectly sound, because it encourages a man to a form of activity which is healthy and helpful in his family life. I believe that the Minister of Labour could, with profit and with greater justice to those concerned, extend that principle to people who are coming under the aegis of those who are trying to create more employment on the land in industrial areas.
There are a great many men in the industrial areas who are not far removed from the land. In the colliery villages there are many men whose fathers or grandfathers came from the land, and they have in their blood a feeling for the land. When they come from the pit they have the green fields round about, and they understand the countryside. Many of them, in the derelict areas particularly, in Middle and South-West Durham, will not get back into the pits and find work there, whatever happens to the coal industry and however prosperous it may become, owing very largely to the introduction of improved methods of working, and they would be only too willing to go back to the land, as their fathers or grandfathers did. The Minister of Labour would be wise if he could make provision which would assist such people to go back to the land. There are many schemes, private and local authority schemes, which help men in this way. By 1189 asking a question in the House the other day, I found that in the county of Durham there are many schemes of that sort, and that the Ministry were bearing a very large percentage of the loss on those schemes. I have come to the conclusion that it would be extraordinarily useful to the whole of that activity if the Minister could make some recognition of the fact that men cannot go back to the land from an industrial area without some help in the initial period. If he could give help for 12 months—in the case of trainees he has made the period six months—to those who are put back on the land under any of the schemes promoted by local authorities, the Society of Friends, or any similar schemes, or perhaps by the board itself, it would be very useful to the men in the derelict areas. It would help to take away the surplus population from such an industry as the coal industry, and would enable more jobs to be found for those who live in the industrial areas.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find some method either in this last stage of the Bill or through the Unemployment Assistance Board of granting to such men some proportion, if not the whole, of their unemployment assistance money if they come under an approved scheme and go back to the land in such a manner that they will be able to support themselves and their families. One of the important things about this proposal is, that the family is a unit. When the family goes back to the land they are far more capable of becoming self-supporting than when a young unmarried man or a married man himself goes to the land alone. It would be easy to find land immediately surrounding the industrial areas which would not be expensive, which would be suitable for some form of agriculture, and which would enable the man in the initial stages to live in his own colliery cottage and go to his own portion of the land and work it for the first 12 months in that way.
This is a constructive suggestion, and I hope that hon. Members above the Gangway will support me. So often I hear purely destructive suggestions from them that I get a little tired and wonder whether they will ever support anything that is constructive. If they will join me in supporting such a proposal they will have the thanks of all the men who will go back to the land if they are given 1190 the opportunity, but who cannot do it if they are not given the assistance which, I trust, the Minister will give to them. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give serious consideration to the suggestion, if not at this stage, at some future stage in the carrying out of the Bill.
§ 9.3 p.m.
Mr. E. J. YOUNG
It would be possible to build up a most formidable case against the Govenment from the speeches that have been made to-day. One has to admit, after listening to the discussion, that the Clause is vague. I am afraid that the Parliamentary Secretary is going to find it difficult to explain away some of the statements that have been made. There are some parts of the Clause which require explanation. I am at a loss to understand some of the terms. I should like to know exactly what the means of the applicant are and how they may be construed. Suppose at the end of the six months when a man has to go for assistance it happens that his clothing and his boots are worn out, and the clothing and boots of his family are also worn out. Would that be taken into consideration by the board in assessing the needs of the man and his family? We who have had experience of unemployed people know that it is very much more difficult to live at the end of six months than at the beginning. All these replacements have to be made, and I am wondering whether the board would be authorised to treat people in this condition as generously as many of us would like them to be treated.
There is another point which arises in connection with disability pensions. Is it assumed that disability War pensions are given for services rendered rather than as a partial removal of a handicap when the man goes to work? I have been actively associated with the British Legion since its formation and I know that there are large numbers of disabled men who are not able to earn full rates of pay in the industry in which they were formerly employed. Is it assumed that the money is for services rendered during the War as a reward or to remove this partial handicap? When it was given it was intended by the Government of that day to enable them to supplement what they would be able to earn in the labour market. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. 1191 Is it the case that these pensions are assessed on the services of the man according to the merit he showed during the War? It must be one or the other. Disability pensions were given either for services rendered during the War or to remove a handicap which rests upon a disabled man in the labour market. If it is not given for either of these purposes, for what is it given? If the wages such a man is able to earn and his disability-pension allowance only amount to what a workman is able to earn it is an injustice if only the first £1 is to be disregarded when he has to compete with other people who have not lost the use of a limb.
Then in regard to the first 5s. of sick pay from a friendly society. Is it assumed that the 5s. given to the person who receives this benefit is by way of compensation, or part compensation, for inability to earn during that period, or is it given to provide extra nourishment during the period of convalescence? In either case it is grossly unfair that this charge should be laid upon a person who is afflicted or who is recovering from an illness. These points are not made clear in the Clause. There are many other points which could be raised. I wonder what will happen to a workman who is unemployed and receiving assistance from the board if he is legally separated from his wife and has been ordered to make a weekly separation allowance. Will that be taken into consideration by the board, and will the wife be in a position to sue him if he does not keep up his payments?
The argument in relation to overcrowding in industrial areas is overwhelming. You are bringing whole families, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law and nephews, you are visiting the misfortunes of the parents on the children unto the third generation and placing a penalty upon them which need never have been imposed if the Government had been active in removing the housing shortage. While we do not agree altogether with the Labour party on the general question of the means test, we think it is grossly unfair that this burden should be put on other members of the household. I have tried to find a definition of "householder," but have not been able to do so in the same sense as the Government, because according to the Government's definition it means all those who are living in the house, all those who are in 1192 the family circle. That definition might easily include the lodger. A lodger, of course, always has the opportunity of moving away just as sons are moving away and going into lodgings to escape an imposition which they feel is being unjustly thrust upon them. We shall join with the Labour party in opposing this Clause. The Government with their vast legions behind them will no doubt pass it, but in the interests of common humanity they might do something to make the lot of these people easier than it will be if the Clause, as it is at present, becomes the law of the land.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
I agree with the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) that the lot of the unemployed under this new machinery will be worse than it is at the present time. It must be so, otherwise why have the Government gone in for these proposals? It is the policy of the Government, acting on the instructions of the Treasury, who in their turn act on the instructions of Mr. Montagu Norman—[Interruption]—that most certainly is the case—to screw down unfortunate men and women on transitional payment as hard as they can. Is it not the policy of the Government to-day to tell local committees who are acting too generously that they must not do so; but never on any single occasion to deal with committees who are acting too harshly and tell them that they should be more generous and reasonable? The "Manchester Guardian," a paper not without authority, said some time ago :The Government is taking coercive measures against several local authorities for being too generous. One has not heard of measures in the counter direction, against local authorities who are acting too ruthlessly.That is the policy of the Government to-day. Have they suddenly changed their mind, their spirit? Have they said, "We are going to have a new policy, we are going to elect a new authority, under which men and women on transitional payment will be treated far more generously"? Under this new plan any generous treatment of the unemployed would fall on the Treasury; and it is the policy of the Treasury not to spend much money on these people. If it were true that the Bill will reverse the whole policy of the Government of the past, it seems to me that they would be guilty of an 1193 inconsistency which is almost inconceivable, even in the case of a National Government consisting of people like the Minister of Agriculture, the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. One thing which has struck me very forcibly during the Debate is the number of hon. Members who have suggested that the Labour party are not serious in opposing the means test. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) went further and accused the Labour party of something like hypocrisy in saying that they were not opposed to the means test. It only shows that when the hon. Member was a member of the Labour party he must have associated himself almost exclusively with such members as the Prime Minister, who even then was meditating a betrayal.
The hon. Member went on to say that he thought this Debate very unreal. I think that the speeches which have been made since he sat down show the opposite. Hon. Members in all parts of the House have applied themselves to this question in a manner which shows that it is a matter of real concern to their constituents. There are Debates in this House which seem highly unreal but those are the Debates in which it is calmly assumed that there are no differences between parties, that there is no difference, for instance, between ourselves and the Government—not between ourselves and members of various parties in other parts of the House, but between ourselves on the one side and the Government and the forces which are behind the Government and the forces which dictate to the Government on the other. Those are the Debates which encourage the Prime Minister to talk nonsense about the abolition of the party system and to say, in effect, that principles do not matter and that expediency is everything. But this is not one of those Debates. This is one of the Debates which show the gulf between ourselves as Socialists and the capitalists represented on the Treasury Bench, though not entirely among their supporters. That gulf is deep and unbridgeable. It is a gulf which cannot be crossed by the misty verbiage of the Prime Minister. It is a gulf which cannot even be filled by the unsold returns of the "News Letter."
1194 There is a fundamental difference between us. We are opposed to the means test because we think it is a brutal and a bestial thing just as we are opposed to Part II of the Bill because we think it means the reintroduction of slavery into this country. The argument for the abolition of the means test was stated to this House by the Minister of Labour himself in his speech introducing the Bill, when he said that the men and women who were being dealt with under the. Bill were unemployed through causes outside their own control. He said that the great majority of these people were anxious to work. That is our position. Our position is that the men and women who are unemployed to-day, whatever may have been the case in the past, are unemployed through no fault of their own. They are not unemployed through some weakness of character, or because they are indolent or inefficient. They are unemployed for the sole reason that the social system has been unable to provide them with the employment which they desire. Therefore, it is only just and logical, as they are the helpless victims of the system, to say that the blame lies not upon them but upon the system. Surely then they have a right to demand from the system everything which they need to maintain themselves in health and efficiency, to maintain their self-respect without any humiliating investigations and means tests.
What is happening at the present time? We know that under the present system the march of science is detrimental to a great many people—as it ought not to be under a decent system. We invent new machines and increase the productive capacity of the worker, and by inventing those machines and putting them into operation we actually throw people out of work. In other words, people are being thrown out of work as a result of the use of labour-saving machines. If men and women employed in a factory where there are machines suffer injury through an accident, if a worker loses an arm or a leg, compensation is given for the physical injury done by the machine without any inquiry into means. Surely, when they suffer a far greater injury than the loss of a limb in the loss of their employment, when they are prevented from using the powers given them by God and nature to work for themselves and those dependent upon them, 1195 they have a right to demand compensation from the owners of the machine.
That point was put very forcibly by the writers of the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. I regret to say that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour thought fit, standing at that Box, to say that the writers of that Minority Report were in favour of the means test, but he was subsequently hauled over the coals for that statement by Mrs. Rackham in the "Times." That, briefly, is our case—that these people are being granted no benefit, no dole, by way of compensation for being deprived of the greatest thing which human beings can have, namely, the right to use their own powers to make their own way in the world. Instead of taking up that attitude, which I feel certain individual members of the Government would take if they were not under control, the Government have thrown the burden of the failure of the system on to the workers themselves. Supposing there are four workers in a factory and two of them have been thrown out of work by the introduction of new machinery. The result is that the two who remain in employment have to share their wages with the two who are deprived of work. Go another step and introduce another machine by which a third worker is thrown out of employment. Only one of the group of four then remains in employment and the wages of that one have to be spread over the four.
That is the system which is being introduced by the Government. That is the object of those who are backing up the Government. They want that kind of system to continue. It is almost a necessary object of those who are behind the Government to hand over the workers whom they cannot employ, bound and helpless, to the organisation which is being set up under this Bill and against which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), and others have pointed out, they have practically no appeal. It means handing over a great mass of people—bound to increase in numbers as labour-saving machinery develops—to a system of slavery, a slavery worse than, or anyhow as bad as, the slavery which existed in ancient Greece and Rome. We know that those civilisations were founded on a great mass of slaves who filled the place taken 1196 by machinery in modern days. To-day we have the machinery, but we intend to have the slaves as well.
I warn the House against the consequences of that policy. There are many Members on all sides of the House who do not agree with that policy. They do not know the formidable forces which are behind this Government, the capitalist and financial forces of which the Government are the nominees, who created the crisis in order that they should be put in the position in which they are. Many hon. Members here came into politics without knowing these things; they came here determined as patriotic citizens to do their best for their country, and do not realise the economic forces which are behind the Government and which are the real rulers of England to-day. I warn the House that at present the workers submitting to these terrible conditions are quiet. They are quiet because they have the hope that, by the operation of political movements, by the fact that an election is coming and they have the power of the ballot, they will be able to put a Labour Government in power which will repeal this Bill at the first opportunity.
Any Labour Government which did not repeal this Bill directly it came in would be thrown out at once by its own supporters. The workers have that hope, but if they are disappointed and feel that they are to be ground under this system for the rest of their natural lives, they may be forced in desperation to use other means. We may have in this country—which God forbid—the same sort of thing that has happened in Italy and Germany, a physical clash between Fascism and Socialism. I do not say that this will happen, but it may happen. I know perfectly well that the financial powers operating behind this Government are very formidable, but I believe that the forces of English manhood and English liberty are greater still.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
My hon. Friend said, just before he resumed his seat, that the Debate was not unreal. I am afraid that, since he gave the House the benefit of his observations, that remark has no longer applied. A more unreal argument on this important matter I cannot conceive. We heard, by way of passing 1197 observations, that some mysterious force was behind the Government and created the crisis. I believe that there was behind the Government a Labour party, to the policy of which the hon. Gentleman subscribed. I should have thought that if there had been any mysterious finance behind the Government the Labour party then in power would have rid the country of that great danger. The hon. Member used the word "betrayed" in reference to a Member of the Government. It ill befits any Member of that Government which ran away from the position in 1931, and who then betrayed the very class whom they were elected to represent, to speak tonight, in discussion on this Bill, of betrayal. I wish to endorse what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) when he asked that this matter might be considered free from the aspect of single constituencies. He is quite right; hon. Members on this side are trying to deal with the matter now before the House in the broadest possible way. We realise that those hon. Gentlemen who come at various stages of this Bill to try to condemn what they know is absolutely necessary—some check or test on the distribution of public money—were the very same gentlemen who, at the Scarborough Conference in 1931, stood definitely by the means test. We realise also that the right hon. Gentleman who leads that party and who, I am glad to learn, is rapidly reaching convalescence, has said time and time again that he will not stand by the distribution of public money without knowing the neeeds of the parties to whom it is to go.
I do not suppose that anybody likes, or would support, if circumstances did not necessitate it, the operation of any means test. Hon. Members know perfectly well, if they are honest and dealing with this matter in a broad attempt to help the unemployed of this country, that there are people on this side of the House and outside the House in the Conservative and other parties who are just as anxious to help the unemployed as hon. Members of the Socialist party. I myself will yield to no one in this claim. I resent very much indeed the attempt of any party trying to arrogate to itself the title of champions of the unemployed. The unemployed of this country are not to be regarded as a lot at an auction sale, to 1198 be sold to the highest bidder. This Bill will, therefore, be recognised by all thinking people as a great human endeavour to deal fairly with a great national problem. It is not an example of the three-card trick of party politics, to try to snatch votes by captious criticism when those who make that criticism know perfectly well that there is no truth behind it.
It is clear that those who comprise the Labour party stand by some sort of means test. It is clear that, if there had been no means test in 1931, there would have been no transitional benefit. It is nothing short of dishonest electioneering to make capital out of the fact that this test has been introduced in a time of great crisis, when hon. Members know perfectly well that they would have had to employ some such test themselves. I am not sure what happened just before the crisis of 1931, but I believe that it was said by one of the right hon. Gentlemen who was then in the Cabinet, that this country was upon the edge of a dangerous precipice, and he has never attempted to deny it. I believe that because of that precipice which the right hon. Gentleman knew so well was present, the Socialist party—to their credit—brought into being certain economies by way both of cuts and of means test, and then ran away from the situation which they had created.
This Bill contains many concessions which we welcome. We realise that in a matter of this nature the man that has means will not have the same benefit as the man without means. There can be no choice in this matter, because no man with self-respect—and most of our fellow-citizens, whether they are in work or not, have their self-respect—would want public money when he had some kind of resources of his own. He realises, as hon. Gentlemen opposite realise if they are honest, that there is no hidden fund to which the State can go, that money has to come to him from the taxpayer and from various sources upon which depend the social services of the country. There is no indefinite fund to which the Government can ruthlessly go. The solvency of the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the maintenance of the supply are essential to the maintenance of the welfare and social services of this country. One of the things that are greatly welcomed 1199 here is the disregard that is given to wounds and disability pensions. That is a concession which is appreciated throughout the country.
Most people know that some kind of test is absolutely essential before public funds are distributed. There is no question about it. It is simply electioneering moonshine to have one policy when a party is in Opposition and another sham policy when it is in the Government and dare not apply the very things which it says, when in Opposition, the Government should apply. We had an example a little time ago of children's allowances, and a great cry was raised because this Government would not do more than the Labour Government did when they fixed 2s. That sham is exposed, and because the country has seen the exposure of that sham, the abolition of the means test is now brought in. It was said by an hon. Member opposite that if, when the Labour party came into power, they did not repeal this Bill, they would be sent out by their own supporters. The people of this country will never support any party which has two policies—one for captious criticism when in Opposition and another which is entirely different when it is in the seat of Government. Everybody realises that the application of the means test is a necessary evil, and nobody can say that any limitation of benefit is a welcome thing, but we know perfectly well that there is no hidden fund. There is a limitation of public supplies and this is an effort, similar to many other efforts of this Government, to make safe and to keep secure the social services of this country in order to help those of our fellows who are in need of some public relief.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
We have had many interesting speeches in this Debate, and there is one fundamental fact on which all Members are agreed, namely, that the unemployed man and woman have been rendered idle owing to causes over which they have no control. I do not think any hon. Member will deny that fact. If that fact cannot be denied, it must be recognised that it is not just to endeavour to place upon the shoulders of the unemployed person the burden of unemployment. We see many things at the back of this Bill besides the means test. We can see the difference 1200 of opinion that has obtained between the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health for quite a long time. It is patent that the purpose of the means test is still further to degrade the unemployed of this country. That is obvious from the inquiries that have taken place in Glamorganshire, where the public assistance committee has been criticised for being too lenient with the unemployed. It is obvious from what happened in Durham, where Commissioners were instituted because the public assistance committee was too generous to persons in receipt of transitional payment. The Government depose democracy, and they depose the public assistance committees because they are too generous.
From practice, therefore, one cannot hut deduce that the primary purpose of the means test is to degrade the unemployed and to keep transitional payments as low as possible. At the back of all this we see much that concerns industry. One knows that there is no desire in the present Government, as far as one can see, to advocate an increase of wages in industry, and it is pretty obvious that if provision were made to increase transitional payment or unemployment benefit, it would decrease that disparity, which is now not very much, between wages paid to those who are employed and the unemployment benefit or transitional payment to those who are idle. So we see that the purpose—I think it is the primary purpose—of the means test is to keep that which is given to the unemployed to the lowest possible amount. We see in it also evidence of a philosophy which is at the back of the Government and the Tory party; that is, that there is a class of people whose place it is to remain poor, and that a scheme must be devised to keep them in perpetual poverty.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Let me put this to the hon. Member. There is attached to the mining industry and to a large number of other industries a piecework system that will enable persons by the application of an additional amount of energy to earn more than they would if they were on day wage payment. The extra that they would receive by the expenditufe of their energy on piecework can be saved. Ultimately, collieries go into liquidation, and 700 have closed since 1924. People on piecework may have accumulated a little 1201 reserve. The principle of the means test implies that those who have thus accumulated small reserves are expected to use it up even though their colliery went into liquidation through circumstances over which neither the individual nor the employer had any control. In any case, it is impossible in this age, when a workman has no control over his employment, for him to obtain security of employment. The fact that he is faced with perpetual insecurity implies of itself that if misfortune strikes him he must pay for the misfortune. That means that he cannot hope to lift himself above the poverty level. I can understand hon. Members saying in 1931 that in a State crisis everything must be done to get the State upon its feet, but I cannot understand hon. Members saying it to-day. After all, for two and a-half years we have had the application of the means test, and the Government have taken more than twice that which they expected.
Let me give a few figures with regard to Glamorgan. Last year 98 per cent. of the persons in Glamorgan in receipt of transitional payments received the full determination, which clearly reveals that all their savings had been absorbed. Whatever savings they had at the end of 1931 the application of the means test in Glamorgan had used up those savings, and 98 per cent. of those people were on destitution lines. The Poor Law test applied to them, so they must be destitute. Why apply the means test from now on? Hon. Members opposite might have had a case two and a-half years ago—in accordance with their own philosophy—for saying that persons ought not to receive public money while they had some reserves at their disposal. Now their reserves are used up, but the means test is to be applied permanently to them. In 1931 the means test was regarded as a temporary affair. It is difficult for me to believe that there is an hon. Member who did not feel in 1931 that the means test was temporary. After all, it was made by special Order; we had no legislation, we did not debate the issue. It was adopted to help us to get over the crisis, like some other things—cuts and so forth. Now we are legislating to impose a piece of machinery that will keep the people of this country right on destitution lines.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I can discuss that at length with my hon. Friend. I was here and he was not. [An HON. MEMBER : "Did you vote for it?"] I did, but I have always opposed the means test. But I must not be drawn away on a point that is entirely irrelevant. Hon. Members opposite say that public money must not be advanced to these people, but do they apply the same principle to farmers, or to foreign capitalists who are in receipt of the beet subsidy? Did they apply that principle to the Austrian loan; did they apply that principle to Palestine? Is it only because people are poor that they object to advance money to them? If the people were their rich clients it would be all right; but because they are the poor who, when in employment, produce the riches of the land, they are to be discarded. Let us look at it from the capitalist point of view. Practically every intelligent capitalist makes provision for depreciation, for renewal of stocks. Every intelligent capitalist makes, provision capitalistically for the renewal of machinery that may be depreciated, but his human capital, which may be discarded by the introduction of a new technique in his business, can perish as far as the nation is concerned. I am not convinced by the arguments we have heard. In fact, we have not had one single argument favouring the present means test. Every spokesman so far has complained about it—except, of course, that we had that remark which I used to hear in South Wales 20 years ago from tub thumpers for brewers speaking from beer barrels. Practically every Member has complained about the administration except, I think, the last speaker, and everyone has endeavoured to suggest some means by which the hardships falling upon the people might be alleviated, but they have never squarely faced up to the means test. It is impossible to apply a means test without finding hardship falling upon innocent people.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We have had hon. Members saying that the individual unemployed person should be treated as a unit instead of the family, but no hon. Member has faced up to the proposition which was advanced early in the Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). For some months I was on the Glamorgan County Council and it was my business to endeavour to administer the means test. Frankly, I endeavoured to evade it. I cannot think that any hon. Member would sit upon a public assistance committee endeavouring to administer the means test as such. If he found that the daughter of the house was a teacher and that her income was being taken into account to deprive her father of transitional payments, he would endeavour to "wangle out of the situation." He would see the injustice when he had to apply the means test to persons who had striven for years to educate their children. Another feature of the means test is this : There can be no doubt that it is designed to hit the most thrifty and the most frugal of the working population. I think that is ad mitted by all hon. Members. If a person is a spendthrift, obviously he has no means to assess. If a person has accumulated a little money and purchases a bit of property, then the rate of interest in the Clause itself is preposterous by comparison with what hon. Members may be receiving from any small investments they may have. It runs from 10 to 11 per cent., which is substantially more than hon. Members would consider to be just in relation to any other form of investment in which the Government may be interested.
There is another small but important matter that I want to touch upon, and that is with regard to the blind persons of this country. Hon. Members may have observed that there was an Amendment on the Order Paper with regard to this matter, but Mr. Speaker decided not to accept it, and so I cannot deal with it in detail. But this is a class comprising about 70,000 people in the country who are seriously affected by the application of the means test. In places like Glamorgan, contributions from collieries to blind workshops and other institutes have fallen fairly substantially, with the result that we have not been able to engage the usual number of blind persons 1204 in those workshops. They have been rendered idle and obliged to seek transitional payment. Outside grants have been given to those people, and whatever grants may have come to them from outside sources, such as benevolent societies, street collections, and contributions, a portion of the amount which each person would receive has been taken into calculation in assessing the amount of transitional payment that that person should receive.
A blind person is suffering from a physical defect in the same sense as a disabled ex-soldier, and he ought not to be placed in a different category from the ex-soldier. Whatever he receives from a local authority or some benevolent society ought to be disregarded in calculating what otherwise he would receive by way of transitional payment, and I am hoping that the Minister will face up to the justice of this case and see whether it is not possible, either here or in another place, to do something substantial to help the blind people of this country. I could talk at some length about this matter, because we are doing a remarkable work in Glamorganshire, through our schools for the blind and workshops of different kinds for adults, adolescents, and young children, and I trust that the Minister will appreciate the justice of our claim in this regard and do what he can by saying that a stipulated amount shall be disregarded, whether it be 15s. or £1. I should say that at least £1 ought to be disregarded in this matter. While we are entirely opposed to the means test, I am making this suggestion that, if it is to apply, a stipulated amount ought to be disregarded in so far as the blind are concerned. That applies equally to very many of the other cases that have been cited by hon. Members.
In conclusion, we are opposed to the means test in every sense of the term. While you have a system that places the obligation to work when work is available upon people, and that may render them idle at any time when they happen to strike the misfortune of unemployment, the State ought to carry that burden upon its shoulders and not to thrust it upon these unfortunate people. It must in its application perpetuate poverty. It must hit hardest those who suffer most. They must be idle for six 1205 months before it commences to apply, and at the time when they should really obtain some additional assistance, they have this additional burden cast upon them. For these and many other reasons we are opposed to the means test, and we should like to have the support in the Division Lobby of all hon. Members who are opposed to it in some form or other.
§ 9.59 p.m.
I wish to elaborate a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) earlier in the Debate. He referred to a circular which was issued during the late Labour Administration, during the time when the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was Minister of Health. When the point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock in connection with the means test imposed under the present Unemployment Bill, hon. Members above the Gangway immediately retaliated by mentioning the Poor Law. To be strictly logical, if one is opposed to a means test of any kind, I think one ought fairly to be opposed to a means test for all classes of the community, and I am extraordinarily interested to find that hon. Members who apparently stand upon no distinction of any kind should on this occasion differentiate between those who draw Poor Law relief and those who come under ordinary unemployment insurance.
I have no wish to do any injustice to the right hon. Member for Wakefield, but I have been at some pains to have all his speeches looked up. [Interruption.] Hon. Members above the Gangway jeer, but I prefer to speak from facts, and, as I say, I have been at some pains to have the speeches of the right hon. Member for Wakefield looked up, and I cannot find that when he introduced his Estimates as Minister of Health, or during the time that he was on the Front Bench as Minister of Health in the Labour Administration, he made one speech indicating that he was opposed to the means test as operated under the Poor Law principle. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) spoke about voting against the means test, but I think I am right in saying that when hon. Members presumably followed their Leader into the Lobby during the time that the right hon. 1206 Gentleman was Minister of Health, they were there and then confirming the means test at any rate in so far as the Poor Law system was concerned.
There is a further point that I would like to make in this connection. We are taking, as I understand it, on a very rough calculation, between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 uninsured workers on to Part II of the Bill. Previously, before the introduction of the Bill, those people were obliged, if they were thrown out of employment, to go to the public_assistance committee for relief, and by supporting, under the Ministry of Health Regulations, a means test under the Poor Law, hon. Members who are talking about these people and supporting their claims in the House to-night were in fact, during their own Administration, placing them under the obligation of a means test when they went to draw relief from the public assistance committee. It is all very well coming to the House to-day for political reasons to oppose the real interests of the people, who are better served by the National Government, because we are catering for them under our new Bill, than they were ever served by the Labour party during their Administration.
As I understand that during my absence from the House the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie) made an interruption which was contradicted by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son), in order that it may be recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, perhaps I might just read the words that caused the interruption. They were :In assessing the amount of relief to be afforded, the general principle is that incoming means of every sort available to the household must be taken into account, subject to the statutory exception contained in Section 76 of the Poor Law Act, 1927.I want to make that point particularly clear, because the 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 I have mentioned are concerned with this Circular, whatever our friends may want to say to-day. For the purposes of record the Circular is No. 1069. I want to join with all my hon. Friends from my own part of the House in the appeal to the Minister of the Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan), that in framing the Regulations he should take account of the proposals and suggestions from all parts of the House. I want to emphasise that there are some very sound recommendations 1207 on the question of pensions, household expenses, old age pensions, widows' pensions and so on, in the report of the Royal Commission, and I am extraordinarily hopeful that when the Regulations come to be framed by the new Unemployment Assistance Board it will have received from the Minister a full and concise account of the Debate to-day, and that consequently we may have Regulations which will wipe out the injustices and meet the criticisms which we as Members for the industrial areas have to make.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)
If I may say so with respect, when I heard that you, Mr. Speaker, had selected this Amendment for discussion to-day I was very pleased. We had on this Clause a full day's Debate in Committee, during which many points of detail were discussed, but the sort of discussion we have had to-day could only have been possible in the Committee stage on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." But we did not have any Debate in the Committee stage on the means test in its broader aspects. It is, therefore, a matter of satisfaction to me, and I think to the whole House, that we have to-day for many hours discussed the means test quite broadly without reference to any particular individual point. It has been looked upon as a question of principle.
I am not going to deal with what may for these purposes be regarded as purely debating points. I am not going to refer to extracts which I have before me from the report of the Annual Conference of the Labour party in Scarborough in 1931, nor to the OFFICIAL REPORT of speeches by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), or the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), whose absence from these Debates nobody regrets more than I do. And may I refer with regret, for the same sort of reason, to the absence of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who, if he had been here, would have enriched our Debates on many occasions. During these discussions to-day we have had, as a whole, a very fair and good Debate. I accept at once that hon. Gentlemen opposite as a party are now committed 1208 to the proposition that the means test as such should be abolished. I accept that. On the other hand, there are many Members of this House, and I am sure very many people in the country, who, for the reasons that I am about to give, are equally convinced that the means test, in some form or other, is not only fair to the taxpayer, but fair and inevitable to the unemployed themselves.
What is the issue between us? It is this : Those who support this Amendment say that they and their party are opposed to the distribution of relief on the basis of the need of the applicant to receive it. That, put quite shortly, I think is a fair way of stating the attitude they desire to take. Let me examine in a sentence or two what that means, and let us realise where it takes us. In the first place, it means that all relief granted to applicants is indiscriminate. It is indiscriminate because as is evident, you are to make no inquiry as between one man and another and, therefore, you are to make no attempt whatever at real equality, because on this hypothesis and on this basis, you are adding equal relief to unequal resources. In other words, it means that the resources of the State, provided as they are to a considerable extent by persons who are very little better off than the recipients, are to be at the disposal of persons whether their needs justify it or not. Let us consider what that means. It may mean that if you have no inquiry into means or resources, you may have in the same street two families living side by side, the one paying taxation to the State to provide relief to the family next door who may be quite as well off as they are. I do not believe that hon. Members will support anything of the kind.
I was sorry to miss the speech of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), but I have had the best account I could get. He will remember the Commissioners' Report. What did it disclose? I do not say these are all the cases. There are 40 or 50 cases referred to in the Report. There was one case of a household, consisting of six members, with four earning members bringing in £12 a week. The public assistance committee granted 15s. 3d. to the fifth member who was unemployed. Another 1209 case, the next on the list, is that of a household consisting of a father, two daughters, aged 16 and 18, and a son aged 12. The father owned 12 houses, bringing in a net income of £250 a year. He was granted 23s. 3d. a week by the public assistance committee. The next was a household consisting of man and wife. The man had £1,000 invested with a co-operative society. He was granted 18s. per week transitional payment by the public assistance committee.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I must point out at once that it was never suggested that these were the only cases reported, but whether such cases be many or whether they be few, I believe that the spectacle of public money paid in relief to households such as those produces a result which is utterly repugnant to the great mass of the people of this country. There is another thing which I want to say on this question. It has always been recognised that when the State makes a demand upon the community, the payment demanded shall have direct relation to the capacity to pay. Taxation is so adjusted. The argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite comes to this : When the community is calling upon the individual for contributions, an inquiry into his means is justifiable and right, but the principle should be cast aside when the State is paying out money. That seems to be a proposition which cannot be defended in justice, logic or equity. In this matter of the means test we have, to be fair not only to the unemployed but to the taxpayer and the employed. We are always told, and it is true, that a great deal of the revenue of this country is produced from the pockets of very poor people. In considering whether we are doing right or wrong in this matter of the means test, we must have regard also to the employed.
I do not want to take up very much of the time of the House because, judging from the number who rose, there are many other hon. Members who want to speak. But many things have been said in the course of this Debate to which I welcome the opportunity to reply. I 1210 took a very careful note of what was said by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan). Both he and another hon. Member made the point that the regulations—I am paraphrasing what they said—should take into account the realities of life. What are the realities of life? Surely it is a reality that when members of a family are living as one household, under one roof, they help each other and contribute to the common expenses of the household. The Bill recognises that fact. I think there is also another reality of life. It is that adult sons and daughters living at home, while prepared to give something regularly towards the common expenses of the household, feel that they are entitled to have something out of their earnings to enable them to live their own lives. It is because I felt that that was a reality of life that words were inserted to meet that case, and they were referred to by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. Clause 39 contains these words, which have been referred to more than once :Due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account.Those words were very deliberately inserted in the Bill at my request. They imply that those who contribute to the resources of the household are entitled to something more than their bare needs, which was the point to which my hon. Friend referred. I believe that on the strict Poor Law destitution test these things are not considered at all, and that nothing at all is left for the individual members of the household; but, whether that be the strict Poor Law or not—I am not quite sure—in practice I think it is true to say that the more enlightened public assistance committees allow at any rate something. That is what this Bill does, and that is where I think it is such an advance on any legislation that has been done before. The Bill gives a statutory sanction to this practice, which hitherto has never had any statutory sanction at all. But it does more than that; it makes the observance of this practice actually mandatory, and, therefore, it is mandatory upon the board to have due regard to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account.
There is another matter to which I want to refer—it was referred to, I think, by 1211 my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee—namely, the question of relationship. It has been pointed out that there is a great deal of difference between the position of the family where you have a father and son, and the ease in which you may have, for example, a step-father and a step-son, or even a brother and a sister. The Bill is deliberately drafted in order to enable the board to recognise this question of relationship when they are making their regulations, and there is nothing at all which will prevent a reasonable treatment of the household according to the facts of the case and according to the degrees of relationship in each case.
I entirely agree with the remark which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton when he said that the regulations when framed—I think I took it down correctly—must carry the moral support of the people themselves. I believe that to be profoundly true. Where you are dealing with, it may be, 1,000,000 persons, or at any rate with many hundreds of thousands, I do not think that regulations which do not carry the moral support of the great mass of the people themselves will be effective. It is because I think the board should be permitted complete flexibility in the matter of their regulations that the Bill has been drawn as it is.
I think the last speaker said she hoped that a report of this Debate would be put before the board. I am certain that the experience of the last 2½ years will be very present to the mind of the board when they are framing their regulations. I gather that the attitude of the Liberal party is that they accept the principle of the means test but they do not like its administration. Nor do we. That is why we brought in the Bill. I think there has been inequality as between one district and another, and anomalies in the same county between a county borough and the county authority. I have never attempted to defend anomalies such as that. I believe they are indefensible. It is because we hope to do away with those inequalities and dispose of those anomalies that we have, adopted in the Bill a system which I believe will give uniformity of treatment, subject to what I have said about flexibility, over the whole country. That, therefore, I think should and will dispose of what I have always felt has been a very great weakness of 1212 the administration by various public assistance committees up and down the country.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman will object to every test. He was a Member of the first National Government which first of all imposed the means test and, further, he was responsible with others for the Order-in-Council which said that the public assistance committees must assess transitional payment on the same footing as they assess Poor Law relief.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman said he understood that the objection of the Liberal party was that they accepted the principle of the means test but objected to its administration, and so did the Government, and that was why the Government introduced this Bill. My observation in regard to that is that the one particular anomaly to which he refers is not the only objection to the means test and, when the Government were introducing a Bill, they ought to have remedied the others as well.
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I am very sorry that, when the right hon. Gentleman was in a position of responsibility as a Member of the Government, he did not take more active steps.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I must strongly protest against that observation of the Minister. It is exceedingly irregular for one Member of the Cabinet to say what another Member of the Cabinet has done or has not done. Since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to an incident which happened when he and I were Members of the Government, may I remind him that I was m strong controversy with him on repeated occasions in respect to these matters?
§ Sir H. BETTERTON
I am asking the House to consider, not the right hon. Gentleman's secret thoughts, but his public form. There is only one other question that I want to mention. That is the point raised by the last speaker but one, with regard to blind persons. There is no class of the community with which everyone has more complete and heartfelt sympathy than the blind. In so far as a blind person is put to special 1213 expense on account of his infliction it will be the duty of the board to have regard to such expense in assessing his means. In regard to that there is no doubt at all, and I am very glad to be able to give that assurance. I have given, and am giving, the most careful consideration to this matter. If you do anything—and obviously it cannot be done on Report—in the direction which the hon. Gentleman suggests with regard to the blind, you have to be very careful that you are not at the same time doing an injustice to other persons like old-age pensioners or people who may be wholly deaf or wholly paralysed. But if hon. Gentlemen will accept the assurance from me, I will do my best to secure that the needs and position of the blind are brought very fully before the board when they are considering the regulations. I do not feel justified in taking up more of the time of the House, but again I say, speaking for myself, I am extremely glad that we have had this Debate.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am rather disappointed with the reference of the right hon. Gentleman to the request made by my hon. friends concerning the blind. I really expected that he was going to be more explicit on that particular question than he has been. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has no doubt whatever that the Public Assistance Board will bear in mind the experience in reference to the administration of the means test during the last two and a-half years. During the whole of this Debate there is not a single Member of the Government—there was, I think, one possible exception—who has attempted to defend the operation of the means test during the last 2½ years. I remember that when the matter was introduced in 1931 and the regulations were put through, hon. Members in this House thought just as they think now concerning this new Clause. They thought that the matter would be so administered that there was scarcely any doubt that everything would work out all right. But to-day there is no doubt whatever as to the effect of the means test. Hon. Members dare not take up any other attitude in the light of experience. Hon. Members have given definite evidence of the effect of the means test upon the lives and homes of great masses of the people.
1214 Great perturbation has been caused in the minds of social thinkers far outside the ranks of the Labour party. There is not a person, irrespective of party, who seriously considers the physical and mental well-being of the people of this country but has expressed views showing much perturbation as a result of the operation of the means test during the post two and a-half years. The hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan) quickly accepted that proposition because he sits for a constituency which has certainly felt the effect of the means test, and in which social thinkers have observed" the dire effect of the means test upon the people in that area.
The right hon. Gentleman says : "You cannot expect to have one working-class family, where there are no unemployed, with a certain amount of income going in, and another working-class family next door which has some members unemployed and perhaps more money going in than into the house next door, the members of which have to pay contributions towards unemployment benefit." He knows that that is nothing like a parallel case. The means test was devised to stop certain people who had an extra amount of money from getting more money, but who will say that its effect has been to take off a little surplus in families of that class? It has not merely taken from those who had a surplus, but it has taken millions from those who had hardly anything. It has taken £21,000,000 a year from the poorest people in the land.
Hon. Members have been sitting on the benches opposite and on the benches below the Gangway on this side who were present when the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Budget speech and announced that he was taking 6d. off the Income Tax, at a cost of £20,000,000—the £20,000,000 that had been taken from the unemployed through the means test. There was cheering then. To-day, there has been free admission that the means test has acted so unjustly as to take money from great masses of people from whom it was never intended to be taken. The right hon. Gentleman took Durham as an instance of his argument. He gave 40 odd cases, and said that he could get more if need be. All that I can say about the right hon. Gentleman's representatives who have gone to Durham and the representatives of other Departments 1215 who have gone there, is that they have not left very much to tell when they have finished. As a rule, they have got all they could. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell the House that his representatives have taken £300,000 from the people in Durham during the past year. If hon. Members will read the articles which appeared in the "Times" a few weeks ago they will see the kind of people from whom this money is taken.
So lamentable is the state of people in areas like South Wales, Lancashire, Durham and Scotland, through the operation of the means test, that it has compelled the Government and those who support the Government to do what we never thought they would do, that is, take note of the fact that there are unemployed in these areas. We have been raising this matter for the past few years, but up to a few months ago we might just as well have talked to the cold rock as talked to the Government. Revelations have come as to the state of things in these areas, and as the facts are well known I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should try to ride off by giving instances of the kind he has given. I am not one of those who try to put on a white sheet and say that we were innocent of this and that. I was not involved in the means test personally, and I could not have been. I will tell the House why, and why none of us in these areas could have been. It is not because we object to an investigation as to means, but because we object to decent men, good craftsmen who have suffered all the evils of unemployment being treated differently from others, as though they were of a lower category of workmen. If I thought it would have made but very little difference I should still have objected to workmen of that class being treated as somewhat inferior. That is what the means test does. Instead of giving them extra consideration for all the years they have been unemployed, their assets gone, their physical and mental condition undermined, instead of doing justice to men who have suffered because of our industrial system, we treat them as a sort of inferior workmen. I should have objected to the means test from that point of view alone.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. Member does not understand this question at all. The fact of the matter is that the operation of the means test has taken £21,000,000 from these people during the past year. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour sought to soothe the fears of the House as to what is going to happen when this Bill comes into operation. The words in the Clause are extremely vague and the House ought to understand that while the right hon. Gentleman says tonight "I am going to issue regulations," he said the same thing about the means test on a former occasion. There were regulations in connection with the last means test and the right hon. Gentleman gave the House then the same kind of soothing assurances as he has given it tonight. The words of the Clause are :due regard being had also to the personal requirements of those members whose resources are taken into account.What kind of regard is to be given? Is it regard which would be given by the type of commissioner who has been operating in Durham? I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) who expressed the wish that certain exceptions and concessions that had been given in Durham would be given in Lancashire. God help the people in Lancashire if they are worse off than the people who have been under the Commissioner in Durham, though I agree that this matter affects very seriously destitute people in almost every part of the country. But I ask the House to listen to what the right hon. Gentleman said in 1931 on the first occasion when regulations for the application and operation of the means test were discussed :I want to assure the House that I think the apprehensions of Members with regard to the working of this scheme are unfounded. I believe it will be worked fairly and not harshly by those who are entrusted with the administration, and so far as I as Minister of Labour am concerned I would point again to the circular I have issued which is the strongest indication that I can give without issuing any directions that I hope these cases will be considered fairly and sympathetically by those who are concerned with the administration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1931; cols. 585 and 586, Vol. 260.]That was the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman during the whole of the discussions 1217 on the inception of the means test in 1931. He has repeated to-night almost word for word what he said then. But the House must understand that it is here laying down permanently a system which has failed disastrously from the national point of view during the past three years. I take no account whatever of those words and I place no value whatever on them. I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman himself were dealing with every case he would give a generous interpretation. I believe if Members here, with the authority and status of Members of Parliament, were dealing with these cases most of them would give generous interpretations but you are to have five or six men independent of the House to do this and I venture to say that the circumstances to-day are almost the same as they were in 1931. You are making permanent a principle which you have no right to apply to decent working men in this country and which I do not think would be supported in the country generally. In the days to come—I am as certain of it as that I am standing here—the statement which I made on behalf of the Labour party will be carried into operation. It will be done, even as a result of the operation of this Clause, in a few years time by some Minister, whether a Labour Minister, or some other Minister. I stated then, and I state again, on behalf of the Labour party that we will destroy this means test lock stock and barrel, without qualification or equivocation. We believe that the disastrous effects which have been accepted passively during the whole of this days' Debate will repeat themselves during the next few years and that this House and this country will rue having introduced this principle into the life of the nation.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I will not detain the House long, but as for the past six hours we have ostensibly been discussing Clause 39, I should like to point out that the whole of the discussion has been centred on one sub-section, that which deals with the resources of an applicant that can be taken into account. There is another sub-section which is just as important in its bearing upon what the applicant is to receive—Sub-section (2), which deals with the needs to be taken into account when considering the assistance which is to be given. In the very 1218 few references which were made to that subject, the observations the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) were not helpful. He semed so anxious to make a point against the Minister that he neglected the opportunity of wresting a concession from the Minister. He presented the new board with an argument to be used against a generous scale, namely, that if the scale exceeded the amount of ordinary benefit it would lessen the value of the insurance system. I would suggest that this is a very important and a very neglected part of the whole subject of what is to be the basis of the needs, not the resources, of the applicant, taking the Bill as it stands in connection with the explanations of the Minister, that were given in the Committee stage.
I deprecate the custom that has prevailed during this Debate of discussing the subject as though we were still in Committee and of entirely ignoring what happened on the Committee stage. Three novelties have been introduced into this Bill which differentiate it from the custom under the present Act to the advantage of the unemployed person. The first point is that the scale of asistance given by the board is not to be limited only by benefit. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale seemed to question that fact, but it has been laid down over and over again by the Minister and it is quite clear from the Bill. The second point is that persons receiving benefit can go to the board for supplementary benefit; that also is laid down in the Bill. The third point is that the board covers the needs of a large number of persons who at present have no resort to the Poor Law whatever. Unfortunately there are some classes that the Bill still leaves out—the workers earning above £250 a year. A fourth point about which I want to say a few words is that the test which the board is, we understand, asked to apply, is not to be a destitution test. I would ask the Minister if he could give a little attention to this point, because it is one of which we have learnt nothing so far in this discussion.
In reply to an Amendment which I moved on the Committee stage, and also in a deputation of persons representative of a great many associations which I led to the Minister, I received certain very definite assurances from the Minister. 1219 We put to him the question as to what was the scale of assistance, and on what it was going to be based, and we asked that it should be not less than would be necessary to ensure to the applicant and his household, taking his resources into account, the minimum needs of healthy subsistence. I wish the Minister would attend to me on this point, because I should like to know that I am not misrepresenting the assurances he gave. I want to make the point that if the pledge which the Minister has in fact given is carried out, it foreshadows nothing less than a revolution in the scale of assistance that will in future be given to unemployed people. Suppose that the scale was to be as much as ordinary benefit but no more than ordinary benefit, would that in fact carry out the assurance of the Minister that it was intended that the scale should not be less than enough to provide for the needs of healthy subsistence?
Any one who compares the scales of ordinary benefit with the scientific estimates which have been put forward by expert bodies of the cost of maintaining households of different sizes, can see that a man getting full scale, if he has no other resources, will be far below the minimum needs of healthy subsistence. Taking the scale of nutrition adopted by the British Medical Association for a man, wife and three children, if he gets full ordinary benefit of 32s. there would be exactly 2s. 3d. left over for rent and everything except bare food, clothing and light. If a man has five children, he has nothing left over for rent and a deficiency on his food and clothing needs of 5s. 3d. It is amazing how little attention has been paid in all these discussions to the question of scales, because we believe the Minister means what he says, and that he does intend to see that the board shall
§ carry out the pledge he has practically given that the scale shall be the scale that will keep a family, not on a destitution test, but from destitution. What does it mean keeping a family from destitution if it does not mean keeping the family in ordinary good health? How many Members have studied what kind of burden on public funds it would mean if that were carried into effect?
§ I prophesy that when this board is established, it will find itself up against the difficulty which strangely enough has not once been mentioned in these Debates. It will find itself up against this difficulty, if the Minister's pledge is carried out, namely, that the scale that will be adopted will be considerably in excess of the wages for unskilled labour in a large number of occupations. There are suggested ways in which that difficulty can be got over. The scale should be enough for healthy subsistence provided it does not exceed the level of wages in the occupation to which the applicant belongs. In any case, I think that when the board settles down to its work, it will find that the Minister has given an undertaking to the House which he will find it very difficult indeed to carry out, but which, if he does carry it out, will impose an enormous improvement on any scale that has yet been adopted.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of 19th December, as amended by the Resolution of the House of 1st May, to put forthwith the Question on the Amendment already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'sick' in page 35, line 29, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided : Ayes, 228; Noes, 63.1223
|Division No. 252.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Burnett, John George|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Cadogan, Hon. Edward|
|Albery, Irving James||Bann, Sir Arthur Shirley||Calne, G. R. Hall.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Allan, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Carver, Major William H.|
|Allan, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Boulton, W. W.||Cattlereagh, viscount|
|Astor, viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Christie, James Archibald|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Broadbent, Colonel John||Clayton, Sir Christopher|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Browne, Captain A. C.||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Burghley, Lord||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Jamieson, Douglas||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootie)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cross, R. H.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Leckie. J. A.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Lees-Jones, John||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Davies, Maj. Geo, F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Llddall, Walter S.||Scone, Lord|
|Drawe, Cedrie||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Slmmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Invernees)||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-ln-F.)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||McKle, John Hamilton||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield. Hallam)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Macmillan. Maurlce Harold||Soper, Richard|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Magnay, Thomas||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Cot. Sir M.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Martin, Thomas B.||Stevenson, James|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stones, James|
|Fox, Sir Gilford||Milne, Charles||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tt'd & Chisw'k)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sutcllffe, Harold|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Morrison, william Shepherd||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Mulrhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Thompson, Sir Luke|
|Gluckstein. Louis Halle||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Nunn, William||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||O' Donovan, Dr. William James||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Graves, Marjorie||Palmer, Francis Noel||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Peake, Captain Osbert||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Penny, Sir George||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Petherick, M.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Pike, Cecil F.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Potter, John||Wells, Sidney Richard|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pybus, Sir Percy John||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Radford, E. A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wills, Wllfrid D.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, David D. (County Down")||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.||Robinson, John Roland||Captain Austin Hudson and|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Kirkwood, David|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lawson, John James|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Leonard, William|
|Banfield, John William||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Bernays, Robert||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McKeag, William|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vare)||Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Cove, William G.||Harris, Sir Percy||Milner, Major James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hicks, Ernest George||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Daggar, George||Holdsworth, Herbert||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Janner, Barnett||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jenkins, Sir William||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Dobbie, William||John, William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Edwards, Charles||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||West, F. R.|
|White, Henry Graham||Wilmot, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)||Mr. D. Graham and Mr. C.|
|Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianeliy)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Macdonald.|
§ Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments moved by the Government of which notice had been given to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Eleven of the Clock at this day's sitting.
§ Amendments made : In page 35, line 29, after "of," insert "any."
§ In line 31, after "of," insert "any."—[Sir H. Betterton.]