HC Deb 10 May 1934 vol 289 cc1324-7

I beg to move, in page 61, line 9, after "period," to insert : which, in the cases of each of the members first appointed, and of any member appointed to fill a casual vacancy, shall be of such duration not exceeding five years as may be determined by the Minister, and in the case of all other members shall be a period. The reason for this Amendment is a very simple one. It is not in the best interests of the public that all the members of a committee should be changed at the same moment. Experience has shown in the past that if the whole of a committee changes at once, the new members find themselves in a difficult position. The system proposed by the Amendment has been worked in municipalities and also in club committees, and has been found to operate very well I trust that the Minister will accept this Amendment, for I feel confident that if he does so he will strengthen the hands of those who are in the future to have the responsibility of successfully carrying out the legislation that this House has initiated.

7.5 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It is a genuine Amendment of a first-class character, which must inevitably improve the Bill as a whole. This is one of the most important committees that has ever been set up; it administers the funds of a very large body and comes into contact with many hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens. In these circumstances, if you could have continuity of tenure of that office, not too long, it would be very much in the interest of the fund as a whole and of the committee. For that reason I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment. I feel sure, at the same time, that it does not cut across any principle or procedure of the Bill.

7.7 p.m.

The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Henry Betterton)

I can give the assurance asked for by my hon. Friend who spoke last that this Amendment does not cut across the principles of the Bill. On the other hand, I think that the Amendment improves the Bill. It is designed to give effect to a promise made either by myself or by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Committee stage to consider the point raised by, I think, the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) that five years was too long. What this Amendment does is, first of all, to meet the point raised by the hon. Lady who moved it, and to secure that the Committee do not all retire at the same time but retire, as it were, by rotation. On the other hand, it meets the point raised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street and secures that the period shall not be more than two, three or four years. I should like, however, to say that, as the House knows, one of the members of this Statutory Committee is appointed after consultation with employers' organisations, and one after consultation with workers' organisations.

I invite expressions of opinion upon this point, but I think that it would possibly be more satisfactory if the period were the same for each of the two members, so that the employers' representative would not be appointed for three years and the workers' representative for two, or the employers' representative for four years and the workers' representative for three. It would be more satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman opposite if these two representatives were appointed for the same period, whatever that period may be. Of course, it is always open for the same gentleman to be re-appointed, and these two members can be reappointed whatever the period.

7.10 p.m.


I was somewhat concerned when I saw this Amendment on the Order Paper, but I think it is a very good thing, as the committee have to operate, that they should so finish their terms of office as to leave a certain number of their members to continue, so that they enjoy a continuity of experience. The provision will, I am sure, ultimately give exactly what we were asking. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I moved that the term of membership should be three years. While that will happen in the case of certain members, the method of changing office in rotation does not necessarily mean that the period of office will be limited to three years, though in the first instance it will be so, in order to get what the right hon. Gentleman wants. As to the other point, it is just a common sense matter of experience that such representatives should retire or begin their term of office together. The main purpose of this Amendment is fulfilled, and the main purpose of the Amendment that I asked for is fulfilled, by the right hon. Gentleman's acceptance.

Amendment agreed to.

7.12 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 62, line 33, column 3, to leave out "Definition of 'suitable employment,'" and to insert "Amendment as to disqualifications for receipt of benefit."

This Amendment and the following Amendment are consequential on the alteration made in Clause 7.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made : In page 62, line 36,. columns 2 and 3, at the end, insert : Section nine.—Provision as to payment of benefit."—[Mr. Hudson.]