HC Deb 08 July 1935 vol 304 cc35-86

3.35 p.m.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out "an employed contributor or a voluntary contributor and."

This is a drafting Amendment, these words being regarded by the draftsman as superfluous. Perhaps the Committee will allow me at this stage to say something about a number of the other Amendments which appear on the Order Paper. It may be convenient that hon. Members should know that a large number of these are drafting Amendments and are being made with a view to the ultimate presentation to the House of a consolidating Measure which is urgently necessary in connection with National Health Insurance. It is the intention of the Government, if time permits, to bring in a consolidating Measure which, as the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. J. Davies) knows, will be of great value to approved societies in their administrative work throughout the country. We have endeavoured in a number of these Amendments to anticipate such a consolidation. The first Amendment which I now move is purely drafting in character.

3.37 p.m.


I very much welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement that it is intended to introduce into the House a consolidating Measure in connection with National Health Insurance. I notice, however, that the right hon. Gentleman who is an astute politician was very careful to use the words "if time permits," and I rather thought that he underlined those words with undue emphasis. I would like him to answer a question which arises on this Amend- ment. When I first looked at these words which it is proposed to omit, I thought they were intended to distinguish between the employed contributor or voluntary contributor on the one hand and the deposit contributor on the other. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the deposit contributor falls into a different category from those other contributors and is not a member of an approved society. Does not the omission of these words destroy the distinction usually made between the two categories of contributors?

3.39 p.m.


I can best answer the hon. Member's question by reading the Clause as it will be if this Amendment is made. The Clause will read: Subject as hereinafter provided where an insured person being a member of an approved society ceases to be employed, etc. The words, "an employed contributor or a voluntary contributor," in this connection are superfluous so far as legal phraseology is concerned. The question of the deposit contributor will be dealt with by regulation.

Amendment agreed to.

3.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, to leave out "two," and to insert "four."

I am grateful to be able to say that the present Minister of Health certainly understands his job. His knowledge of insurance matters is very well known in this House, and he will be able to see exactly what is meant by my Amendment. Special opportunity for preferential treatment is given in regard to the question of 10 years' insurance. In the case of any person insured for 10 years, a society has the power, year by year, to grant the concession of keeping him in, providing he can give alternative evidence and bring proof to the society that he was unemployed. With regard to those insured under four years, they are in a very belated category indeed, and while a society had the opportunity of keeping all classes in insurance under the prolongation provisions, without any question of whether they had been insured for four years, with 160 contributions paid, or whether they had been insured for 10 years, now, by this Bill, we find that the 10 years, from the point of view of the valuation of a society, will be a determining factor with regard to the next quinquennial valuation, and some of us feel that an injustice is being done to those members who have not been in more than four years or who come under the 10 years.

When one remembers the great amount of unemployment and the many thousands of people who have been out of work, and realises that they may lose their contributions and not get an opportunity of establishing themselves unless they start employment again and reenter in the ordinary course of joining an approved society, it appears to me, who have been managing the affairs of an approved society since 1912, that a great injustice is being done. The Minister must remember that they are giving a concession to those with 10 years' insurance and over, and they are giving optional power to the society to make certain concessions, and it appears, from the equity of the case, that these other people are not being fairly treated. With regard to differentiation, who can say that 10 years must definitely be the starting point? If we are not going to allow any concession to be given by the societies under that period, the State ought to step in and make it possible to take the middle course. The middle course will not do the Minister or the Government any harm, but it will certainly give an opportunity to many people to be retained in the membership of their societies. When all is said and done, a work of such great national importance, catering for many millions of people, is a real benefit conceded to the people, and the protection given under the national health insurance scheme is essentially beneficial. It is a great institution, and I do not think any of these benefits ought to be taken away from the people.

I do not think we ought to consider the question of conceding one or two years as being detrimental to the finances of the societies. I know that the approved societies look after the money, but any society that is administering the Act is not a vested interest, but is being worked for the interests of the State, and although the State has conceded the right to the societies of governing themselves in the main, it must not be thought that they are given a vested interest to manipulate and administer simply for their own advantage. It may be that some societies can give greater advantages than others, but that does not mean that the State has not the right to step in and to see that what crept in as a national institution in 1912 does not now become monopolised, with great injustice to a number of people as a result. I am not concerned about what my own approved society may say, but I am concerned about members of my own society getting the advantage of an extra two years' insurance. This Amendment will not cost the State anything, but it will leave to a society the power of giving an opportunity for the extension of insurance.

I think the right hon. Gentleman might grant this concession. I know that it is of no use trying to tell the Minister fairy stories. He has been in this business from the very commencement, and I know he knows, and because I know he knows, I am telling him, in case some Members do not know. My observations are for those who do not know, because I am aware that in this House there are plenty of Members who do not know anything about this subject. This concession for which I am asking is for the benefit of the nation. It is not a benefit for which we are asking from the Labour benches only. It is a benefit that will deal with the whole mass of the unemployed, whether they belong to one party or another. Therefore, it cannot be said that in putting this plea forward from these benches we are advocating only the policy of the Labour party. We are advocating the welfare of those insured who will possibly otherwise go out of insurance, whereas if they are retained for the extra two years, I feel that an opportunity will be given of bringing these people back into one fold, especially if we have the great rise in national prosperity under this National Government which is talked about.

3.50 p.m.


It is not possible for me to place before the Committee such knowledge and experience as that of my hon. Friend, but, coming from one of the distressed areas, I Can assure the Minister that this is an Amendment which he should consider with sympathy. There are many thousands of young men who have been idle for four years who may be able to obtain employment again. They are comparatively young in the insurance sense, and they ought not to be deprived of the free period up to four years because they may obtain employment some time in the future. The National Government are now proclaiming that prosperity has returned, that it is not just round the corner, but here. If it is here, we ought to have a restoration of the status quo.

3.51 p.m.


I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) for his kind references to myself. I wish that I had a little clearer recollection of a good many of the matters about which I used to know long ago, but I am endeavouring to renew my acquaintance with this interesting subject. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment is an experienced administrator of an approved society, and he spoke with a good deal of courage and conviction. I would like to point out one or two considerations which the Committee ought to bear in mind and which I am afraid destroy a number of the arguments which have been used. The provision that every insured person on ceasing work has a free insurance period of, on the average, some 21 months has been on the statute book since 1928. Therefore, there is no question of restoring the status quo. The effect of the Amendment would be to extend that free period from 21 months to three and three-quarter years. I want the Committee to realise that cover for cash benefits, medical benefits and pensions goes to every person on ceasing insurable employment, irrespective of the reason for giving up work; and the man who passes out of insurance for one reason or another is as entitled to this free period as a man who loses his employment. One of the effects of the Amendment would be to extend the period, not only to the men who have been referred to, for whom we have every sympathy, but to a large number of others who have not that claim.

The reason I cannot accept the suggestion which the hon. Gentleman has made in all good faith is that the cost of the extension would fall upon the balances of the approved societies. I must say, with some knowledge of approved societies, that I very much doubt whether they would be prepared to agree to the suggestion that they should shoulder this considerable burden. In fact, I go further and say that I am advised that at the present moment, with the considerable contribution that the societies have to make towards the proposals of this Bill, it would not be a reasonable or a safe thing for them to contemplate carrying it further. Of the cost of the proposals in this Bill, one-half is being borne by the Government and one-half by the approved societies. The approved societies have met the situation very fairly and in a statesmanlike way, and I do not think that they could be expected, nor would it be right to ask them, further to deplete their funds by this proposal. If they did, it might seriously affect some of the benefits which some of the societies give. In order to do the generous thing to a certain body of people, they might very well do serious injury to their members.


Has the right hon. Gentleman considered allowing the societies to grant this prolonged period where their funds will allow them to do it? That could be done without applying the principle all round.


I should have to be satisfied about the views of the approved societies before I made any observations about that. The hon. Gentleman was very careful to say that he was not speaking for his society but for himself, and that this was his own idea. I think he will realise that I cannot impair the funds of the approved societies in this way, how-every much we may desire to benefit a further number of people. I appreciate the hon. Member's intention, but I feel, on behalf of the approved societies, that it would be unwise to press the matter further.

Question put, "That the word 'two' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 31.

Division No. 263.] AYES. [4.0 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Patrick, Colin M.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Grimston, R. V. Peat, Charles U.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Penny, Sir George
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Percy, Lord Eustace
Anderson, Sir Alan Garrett Guy, J. C. Morrison Petherick, M.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Assheton, Ralph Hales, Harold K. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Power, Sir John Cecil
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Hartland, George A. Pownall, Sir Assheton
Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Harvey, Major Sir Samuel (Totnes) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Blaker, Sir Reginald Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Blindell, James Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ramsbotham, Herwald
Boulton, W. W. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Rea, Sir Walter
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Holdsworth, Herbert Remer, John R.
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Rickards, George William
Broadbent, Colonel John Horsbrugh, Florence Ropner, Colonel L.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Howard, Tom Forrest Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Leith) Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Runge, Norah Cecil
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Burnett, John George Hurd, Sir Percy Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Caine, G. R. Hall- Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Salmon, Sir Isidore
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univ.) Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Kirkpatrick, William M. Sandys, Duncan
Castlereagh, Viscount Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh. S.) Lewis, Oswald Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Liddall, walter S. Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)
Clarke, Frank Little, Graham, Sir Ernest Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Clarry, Reginald George Lloyd, Geoffrey Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Loder, Captain J. de Vere Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Colfox, Major William Philip Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Colman, N. C. D. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr) Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)
Cooke, Douglas McCorquodale, M. S. Stones, James
Cooper, A. Duff MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Bassetlaw) Strauss, Edward A.
Copeland, Ida Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Cranborne, Viscount McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Crooke, J. Smedley McKie, John Hamilton Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) McLean, Major Sir Alan Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Denman, Hon. R. D. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Sutcliffe, Harold
Dickie, John P. Maltland, Adam Tate, Mavis Constance
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Drewe, Cedric Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Duckworth, George A. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Thompson, Sir Luke
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Marsden, Commander Arthur Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Edmondson, Major Sir James Martin, Thomas B. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Meller, Sir Richard James (Mitcham) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Mollor, Sir J. S. P. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Wills, Wilfrid D.
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Withers, Sir John James
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Womersley, Sir Walter
Fox, Sir Gifford Moss, Captain H. J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Gaibraith, James Francis Wallace Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Worthington, Sir John
Ganzoni, Sir John Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Norie-Miller, Francis
Goldie, Noel B. North, Edward T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
Gravel, Marjorie Orr Ewing, I. L. and Major Llewellin.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Grenfell, David Reel (Giamorgan) Thorne, William James
Banfield, John William Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Tinker, John Joseph
Batey, Joseph Grundy, Thomas W. West, F. R.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cleary, J. J. John, William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lawson, John James Williams Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Cove, William G. Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)
Daggar, George Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Wilmot, John
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Rathbone, Eleanor
Dobbie, William Salter, Dr. Alfred TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Paling and Mr. Groves.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 28, to leave out "of some."

This is a drafting Amendment. The words "of some" are not in the definition of the principal Act.

Amendment agreed to.

4.8 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 34, after "sub-section," to insert: but subject to the provisions of sub-section (5) of this section. Perhaps it would be convenient if this Amendment and the first four Amendments on page 2760 of the Paper were discussed together, because they are all more or less related to each other: In page 3, line 32, to leave out from "until," to "during," in line 34, and to insert: since the end of his free insurance period he has been employed within the meaning of this Act. In line 39, at the end, to insert: Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to a person who is employed within the meaning of this Act at the beginning of an extended insurance period and would, if he had ceased to be so employed immediately before that date, have then been entitled to a new free insurance period. In line 40, to leave out from the beginning, to "until," in line 44, and to insert: (5) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) of this section—

  1. (a) a person who has been continuously employed within the meaning of this Act since before the beginning of an extended insurance period shall, on ceasing to be so employed, become entitled to a new free insurance period if he would have become so entitled had he ceased to be so employed immediately before the beginning of that extended insurance period;
  2. (b) in any other case a person who is so employed during an extended insurance period shall not, on ceasing to be so employed, become entitled by reason thereof to a new free insurance period unless and."
In page 4, line 15, at the end, to insert: Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to a person who becomes a voluntary contributor immediately on ceasing to be so employed if he would have been entitled to a new free insurance period had he not become a voluntary contributor. These five Amendments deal with the question of requalification either during the free insurance period or the extended period. Perhaps the Committee will allow me briefly to explain the position in the Bill as drafted, and how we propose to deal with it. The Sub-sections affected are (2), (4) and (5). Subsection (2) says that during a free insurance period a man can requalify for a new free insurance period by eight weeks work in two consecutive contribution half-years. On the other hand, in Sub-section (4), if a man has passed out of his free insurance period, and is in the extended period, he is not entitled to sickness benefit, and is not entitled to a new free insurance period, until he has done 26 weeks' work in two consecutive years. As the Sub-sections are drafted inadvertently, the case of a man who is working at the end of his free insurance period, and carries on working into the extended period, is not dealt with. In Sub-section (4), for example, a man does not get entitled to benefit until having again become employed.

Let us assume that a man got a job at the beginning of December in the free insurance period which ended on 31st December. He then goes right on until 4th July in the following year. He has done 26 weeks in the extended period. Nevertheless, as the Clause is drafted, if he then becomes unemployed he does not qualify for a new insurance period. The first thing, therefore, is to enable all weeks from the beginning of the extended insurance period to count towards the 26 weeks. The second thing is this. If a man has done eight weeks work at the end of his free insurance period, and carries over, that man is not within that free insurance period qualified for a new free insurance period. He has not ceased work in the free insurance period. The first two Amendments on page 2760 make it quite clear that in such a case a man who has done his eight weeks work down, say, to the end of his free period, 31st December, even if he goes on for another two weeks, he carries with him into the extended period the full right to cash benefit, and when he ceases employment, even although it is in the extended period, he shall thereby start another free insurance period.

The third thing that happens is this: It is provided in the last of the five Amendments that if a man has done his eight weeks at the end of the free insurance period and continues his employment into the extended insurance period, and then wants to become a voluntary contributor, from the moment he becomes a voluntary contributor he continues to be entitled to full benefits by virtue of the eight weeks he worked in the free insurance period. I hope I have made that clear. We are simply doing what, obviously, was the intention, that is, to treat everyone fairly, to see that eight weeks really gives a man full entitlement to the new free insurance period and 26 weeks in the extended period exactly the same thing.

4.14 p.m.


I am glad the hon. Gentleman is taking all these Amendments at the same time, because they relate to the same problem. He mentioned, however, something about a person becoming a voluntary contributor, and perhaps, Sir Dennis, you will be good enough to tell us how these Amendments affect the proposal in my name, and that of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), in page 3, line 29, at the end, to insert: Provided also that an insured person who has been an employed contributor and has since become a voluntary contributor shall, in the event of ceasing to be a voluntary contributor and being available for but unable to obtain employment within the meaning of this Act, be deemed to be an employed contributor for the purpose of this sub-section. Having asked that question, perhaps I may be allowed to say one thing on the Amendment before the Committee. The Bill was introduced by another Minister, and we have a new Minister now in charge of it. I have an impression that the new Minister is a little bit ashamed of the Bill of his predecessor. He shakes his head, but the more he shakes it the more I believe in what I have said. Having said that, I would add that I believe the proposals he is now making are an improvement, and that the administration of them will prove easier for the approved societies when dealing with persons who are usually called "the ins and outs." We hope the effect of this Bill will be to keep the "outs" more "in" than has been the case in the past. I would like a word from the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to assure us that he will not lose sight of the very important point we desire to raise under my Amendment.

4.16 p.m.


I can satisfy my hon. Friend on that point. This Clause deals only with those who become voluntary contributors in the conditions I have mentioned after the passing of this Bill. The people about whom the hon. Member is concerned are part of those 200,000 who became voluntary contributors and are thereby prejudiced. They are being dealt with by a later Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

4.17 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, to leave out "free insurance period during which he became so employed," and insert "contribution half-year following that in which the first-mentioned period began."

This Amendment has been designed to lessen, if possible, the work of the approved societies. Under the Sub-section as it is worded the societies would have to record in great detail the total number of weeks, and the particular weeks, during which the unemployment existed. We think such very extensive records might be dispensed with.

4.18 p.m.


The position here is apparently governed by the preliminary words in Sub-section (1), which refer to an insured person "being a member of an approved society." I should like to ask what happens to insured persons who are not members of approved societies.


We deal with the case of deposit contributors by regulations.


But are the benefits which are being conferred under this Amendment being conferred on deposit contributors?


We come to that point a little later.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 27, leave out "during" and insert "in respect of."—[Sir K. Wood.]

4.19 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 29, at the end, to insert: Provided also that an insured person who has been an employed contributor and has since become a voluntary contributor shall, in the event of ceasing to be a voluntary contributor and being available for but unable to obtain employment within the meaning of this Act, be deemed to be an employed contributor for the purposes of this Sub-section. This Amendment deals with a point which is of very great importance to those who have been unemployed for a considerable period. Unfortunately, we have a very large number of such persons in the distressed areas. I know of nothing which gave the unemployed greater concern than the withdrawal of the benefits in 1932, for it can be truly said that the health insurance scheme has become a part of the lives of the people. It is of vital importance to them to be kept in benefit so that they can qualify for everything to which they are entitled under national health insurance. Ever since 1932 we and they have been very concerned about the withdrawal of those benefits, which in my opinion was the most cowardly action of this Government since it came into office. The unemployed were in no way responsible for the condition of affairs which existed, but for all that a great injustice was inflicted upon tens of thousands of them. The short point of the Amendment is this: When the benefits were withdrawn in 1932 a number of insured persons, particularly those over 40 or 45, were very anxious about what would happen to them at the end of 1935 when, as was provided in the legislation of 1932, even their pension rights would be withdrawn. A number of my friends and I openly advised those persons, wherever possible, to become voluntary contributors, notwithstanding the fact that they were unemployed at the time, and a very large number paid their 1s. 6d. a week out of the very small amount of unemployment benefit they received—some out of the 26s. which they received for themselves and their wives, and some even out of the 17s. which they were getting for themselves. They did that simply to safeguard their benefits under the health insurance scheme, and particularly their pension rights.

That has now been going on for some three years, and the Minister must admit that it represents a great sacrifice on the part of those unemployed persons. The Bill as drafted excluded voluntary contributors from the benefits which it gives to those persons who did not become voluntary contributors, and when the matter was mentioned to the Minister of Health who introduced the Bill he frankly agreed to give it very sympathetic consideration. I think the present Minister has put down a new Clause to deal with this matter, but we are anxious to ascertain whether there is any difference between what we are now proposing in this Amendment and his new Clause. I know that this Amendment covers all voluntary contributors who become unemployed, and if he accepts it it will cover the case, amongst others, of a few colleagues who, like myself, are voluntary contributors. We took advantage of the provisions of the Act of 1925. We had been insured persons previously, and thought it was a good speculation. From then up to the present time we have been voluntary contributors, and I am sure the Minister would not like to penalise us if, as a result of his propaganda at the next election, some of us may become unemployed.

One thing I have noticed about the propaganda of the right hon. Gentleman is that National Health Insurance and the withdrawal of the benefits in 1932 is not mentioned, and I feel he might add that to the long list of things that the Government have done—that they took from the poorest of the poor the benefits which they had received up to 1932. However, that is by the way. The Bill as it stands we welcome, though we think it might go much farther than it has gone. I am pleased to think that the Minister has met us in some degree over this matter, which affects not only those of us who are speaking in the House but thousands of insured persons who became voluntary contributors, because their pension rights and medical benefits will be safeguarded once this Bill has been passed.

4.26 p.m.


The hon. Gentleman has stated with precision the difficulties of a number of persons, and I propose to indicate the course the Government are taking in that connection. I do not propose to apply myself to the other observations which he made, which are not particularly material to this Debate. A certain number of unemployed persons took what I regard as the very wise course of becoming voluntary contributors, because they were doubtful about their pension rights after 1935, and I do not think any one would desire to penalise them for exercising a certain amount of caution. To meet the situation the Government have put down a new Clause, "Transitional Regulations." Under the terms of this Clause these voluntary contributors may be treated as, from 1st January, 1936, as if they had not become voluntary contributors, and they will be dealt with under the new provisions which relate to employed contributors—they will be put in exactly the same position. This question can only arise when the new provisions in relation to the continuance of insurance come into operation. I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that it is better to deal with this matter by an amendment of the law in the form in which it is set out in this new Clause, and I hope he will agree with me that all the points he has raised are met by it.

4.28 p.m.


Could a provision be inserted that these voluntary contributors shall not have to continue to pay as voluntary contributors until the end of the year? It is six months from now to the end of the year, and I suggest that the Clause might be drafted to provide that these voluntary contributors shall be transferred in the way suggested "as from the passing of this Bill." That would mean a saving of eighteenpence a week to those people, who can ill afford to pay it, for a number of weeks.


I will look into that point. I think it is necessary that they must continue as voluntary contributors to the end of the year, but I will look into it to see what it is possible to do in that matter.


I think the right hon. Gentleman will find himself in some difficulty in drafting these regulations—


I think the hon. Member is beginning to discuss the Minister's new Clause, which we have not yet reached.


If the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) will withdraw his Amendment, I will deal with the question.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.29 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 30, to leave out Sub-sections (4) and (5).

The purpose of this Amendment is to make a discontinuance of cash benefits impossible. I realise that the Minister will say that to do this would create great difficulty for many approved societies, but he will also agree that the discontinuance of cash benefits involves many insured persons in far greater difficulties. The person dealt with in this Sub-section is one who has been unemployed for a very long period, and is reduced to a poverty-stricken condition. He is the likeliest person to fall sick, and, having fallen sick, is the likeliest person to remain sick for a very long time. He is the person who, in addition to medical benefit, needs cash benefits. Nobody can expect a sick person, merely because he receives medical benefit, to recover from sickness in a very short time. To continue his cash benefits would enable him to get better much sooner and to be fitter for his job. The Minister of Health cannot disregard the matter from the point of view of enabling a sick person to get better at as early a date as possible. We believe that cash benefits are essential.

That is true also of disablement benefit, and when we come to maternity benefit, the case is even stronger. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) will deal with that aspect of the matter, but I would point out that maternity been fit is vital for a person who has been unemployed for a long period. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the point that it is very difficult for a family to face that trying ordeal without cash coming in from somewhere. The Minister will say that he is not leaving the matter undealt with; I know, but it is dealt with in a very strict proviso. He may think it is not strict, but, as a miner from Lancashire, I can assure him that it is very strict. When a pit closes down, a man cannot be expected to pay 26 weeks, and I could give the Minister plenty of instances from Lancashire of men who have no hope of 29 weeks' contributions. The Amendment might create difficulties for many approved societies, especially for miners' societies, but whatever those difficulties, there are far greater difficulties for the unemployed person at the present time. It is very important that unemployed persons and their families should be kept in a decent state of health, in order to enable them to get better quickly when sickness overtakes them.

4.33 p.m.


I desire to support the Amendment. I should be the first to realise the very practical difficulties in the way of its acceptance, and am as fully conscious as the Minister of the difficulties which will confront some of the approved societies. There is, nevertheless, a grave injustice to men who, through no fault of their own, are unemployed, after the great majority of them have given their best days to the service of the community and of their employers. There are thousands of men in approved societies who have drawn no sickness benefit for many years. In our own society there are thousands of members who have never yet drawn sickness benefit. A man may have entered insurance at 16 years of age, and have worked at his trade probably for 35 years, during the whole of which time he has had good health and has not drawn sickness benefit. In modern industry, a man may find himself thrown out of employment when 51 years of age through no fault of his own. He is ready and anxious to work, but the precise age at which he is thrown out is also the age at which he will need sickness benefit. During 21 months that man gets no work, and no stamps are put on his card. He drops out of insurance. Steps are taken under the Bill to safeguard his pension rights and his medical attention, but he is denied sickness benefit, even though he has paid contributions during all those years.

There is an unanswerable case on behalf of the vast majority of those men. They have a moral claim. The difficulty which the Minister will put forward will be, I am sure, that, however good the Amendment may be, the financial condition of many approved societies is such that they would be unable to pay. I am satisfied that some approved societies could not possibly pay benefit of this kind, but other approved societies have substantial balances and assets, and could afford to pay to members who bad been in insurance for many years. Here is a direction in which help might be given by the State in conjunction with the approved society. We cannot forget that a few years ago millions of pounds were taken from the funds of the approved societies which would be very useful in this connection.

The case could only be met by the Minister realising that sooner or later the existence of thousands of approved societies with varying benefits, some in trades where sickness is very high and additional benefits consequently cannot be paid, and some in trades where sickness is comparatively rare, will have to be considered. The fundamental purpose underlying national insurance is the wellbeing of the people, irrespective of trade or calling. I do not know whether the Minister would be inclined to look into the suggestion as to the pooling of funds of the approved societies in order to find the necessary money for sickness benefit. The case for maternity benefit will probably be stronger still. From the financial point of view it could be in no way so expensive. I have had many cases of decent men who have given service to this nation but have been thrown out of employment at 50 years of age, or even at 47 or 45. They have not been shirkers, and surely when, in these circumstances, a child is born into a family, the man and woman concerned are entitled to maternity benefit and some help and assistance. I know very well the line which the Minister will take on this Measure. The difficulty is particularly one of finance, but the injustice which is being done raises the whole question of national insurance and its administration, as being worthy of reconsideration with a view to their entire reorganisation.

4.41 p.m.


If the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) can read my thoughts and knows the speech which I am going to make, I suggest it means that he admits that the line taken by the Government is right and that that taken by himself could not be sustained in argument. I appreciate the interest and the sympathy shown by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) in the sort of case he mentioned, particularly among miners. We are entitled to claim that the provision we are making here is a great step forward. The present position under the law is that when a man falls out of work he has his 21 months, subject to arrears, but no cash benefit if he has paid no contributions in the previous year. Then there is the further extended year, again subject to arrears, and no cash benefits. He would have had, after 1st January next, a year's pension, but what we are doing here is to say that everybody shall have his 21 months free insurance, subject to no arrears and with full cash benefit, irrespective of what he has paid during the previous year, and that thereafter, year by year, subject to a simple test which the great bulk of insured persons over 27 years of age will be able to satisfy, he will be kept in insurance, in an approved society, and kept in medical benefit and in full pension rights, even if he never does another week's work, until he is 65 years of age.

We realise the difficulty of men in middle life falling out of work owing to the intervention of machinery or reorganisation, but such a man has nothing to fear as regards security when he reaches 65 years of age, and nothing can deprive him of that right. That being so, I think the Committee will realise that these provisions cast a big burden on the State and upon the approved societies. To give to a man who falls out of employment in such a case as I have mentioned, and after he has been insured for 10 years, a man who may be as young as 27, security for pension for the rest of his life, and should he die, security to his widow, will cost the State £9,000,000 in the next decade. To say that a man who fell out of employment should have full cash benefit hereafter, in the same way as anybody who was contributing regularly week by week, would undermine the whole purpose and the structure of a contributory scheme, and would turn health insurance from a right into a sort of public charity, which is not really doing a favour to the beneficiaries. Of course, as the hon. Member for Ince suggested, it would bankrupt a large number of societies, and it would be doing no service to the unemployed if, in trying to help them, we deprived the employed of advantages which they have every right to expect. For these reasons, which I am sure the hon. Members who have moved and supported the Amendment will appreciate, we cannot accept the Amendment.

4.45 p.m.


I thought that the hon. Gentleman might be sympathetic on one point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), namely, that of maternity benefit, but he was not quite fair when he spoke as though the proposal of the Amendment was a great step in advance. The Opposition will lose no opportunity of calling the attention of the Government to the fact that we should not be moving these Amendments, and the Minister would not be opposing them, but for the action of the Tory Government in 1926, and I think we are entitled, when we can fasten upon that point in connection with these benefits, to protest in this House that the insured population are deprived of benefits which could easily have been secured for them but for what was done in 1926. The Minister need not have said this afternoon that the funds of the approved societies could not stand these benefits if that action had not been taken in 1926. I think the right hon. Gentleman was in the House at the time, he played the part of errand boy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he deprived the approved societies of £2,750,000 per annum. Of course, he has gravitated upwards since, and now he is the Minister in charge of this Bill, and he puts up his deputy to say that the societies cannot afford to pay sickness and disablement and maternity benefits to those people who are unemployed because to do so would smash the financial foundations of the scheme, while he is in part responsible for shaking those financial foundations. We shall go to a Division against the proposal of the Bill, not because we do not think that that proposal is better than what prevails now, but because we desire to continue to-day, in 1935, to protest against the action of the right hon. Gentleman in 1926.


I do not want to defend the taking away of the £2,750,000 in 1926, but, supposing that that money had not been taken away, would it be sufficient to enable these benefits to be paid?


Speaking with some little authority, I can say that it would be more than sufficient to pay all the benefits that are included in this Bill.

4.49 p.m.


I listened with great interest to the observations of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I felt certain that he was going to drag in the old story of the money which had been taken away, but this afternoon we have got down to real facts; the hon. Member has disclosed the whole case. He does not suggest that it is possible for the Minister to accede to the request which has been made by his friends, but he says, "This is a pure demonstration. We do not expect, in the present financial conditions, that this concession can be granted. My hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the Amendment"—


I did not intend that remark to apply to maternity benefit.


It comes to the same thing. The hon. Member says that the taking away of this money from the pool prevented the provision of these very necessary benefits. I am sure that the Minister, if he had the money, would be the first to accept the Amendment. I agree that the case of these men who have been unemployed for so long is a desperately hard one, and that it must be met in some way, but I would ask my hon. Friends who have moved and supported the Amendment this question in all sincerity, because I believe that they feel very deeply concerned about the people for whom they speak: If the Minister were able to say that these people who have passed out of insurance should be brought back under the Bill with all the benefits that they had during their full period of insurance, would that provide them with the comfort and sustenance which is necessary to put them back into good working health once again? That, after all, is a comparatively small matter, very much smaller than the amount received under unemployment insurance, and when they come to receive public assistance, a portion of the amount which they would have received by way of health insurance benefit is taken into account in the amount allowed to them under public assistance. Therefore, when the hon. Members' appeal comes to be examined and analysed, there is not a great deal in it after all.

The real truth of the matter was stated by the hon. Member for Westhoughton, who said in effect, "This is a demonstration. We have something with which we can whip the Government; let us seize it this afternoon." If that is to be the argument brought forward, we have an excellent case to put before the electorate. To my mind this Measure has been a, remarkable attempt on the part of the Government to meet a really urgent necessity for the great majority of those who were going to pass out of insurance and lose their pension rights. The Opposition have urged that these people should not be carried on from year to year in a state of suspense, and the Government have met that case. Now the Opposition seize the opportunity of dragging in a number of other cases, which could only be met in conditions of great prosperity. If hon. Members thought that so much injustice was done to insured people by the taking away of the £2,300,000, why did not the Socialist Government, when they were in power in 1929, put that money back, and thus undo the great robbery which was said to have taken place? Of course, they could not do so. Indeed, in view of the financial position of the country at that time, it is marvellous that the Government to-day are able to give this little assistance. The proposals of the Government are excellent proposals, which are much appreciated, and, although hon. Members on the Opposition benches have made this demonstration this afternoon, I know that in their heart of hearts they are deeply thankful for what the Government have done.

4.55 p.m.


I know that on a Clause like this we cannot discuss the whole question of national health insurance, but, after the little curtain lecture which has been delivered by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir Meller), there are one or two things that need saying. We on this side of the Committee have not condemned hip and thigh this Bill as a Bill; we have rather welcomed certain portions of it; but I would remind the hon. Member that it was the present Government that passed the amending legislation in 1932 which caused so much anxiety in the minds of the unemployed as to what was going to happen to them. It is almost as a death-bed repentance that this Bill has been brought in, and I am inclined to believe that the real reason for its being brought in is that a general election is looming ahead. Most of us knew that before the general election the Government would have to bring in a Bill of some kind to deal with the position of the men who have been out of work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) did not move this Amendment purely as a demonstration; let that be perfectly understood. Whether the House appreciates it or not, there are large numbers of people in this country who have been out of work for two and three years, and who in the present state of industry cannot get their 26 weeks' stamps in two years. We want to know what is going to happen to them. The hon. Member says that the benefit they would have received would be taken into account by the public assistance committee, but the whole tendency of social legislation in this country has been to take people away from the Poor Law—that is to say, from the public assistance committee—and to deal with the problem in a national manner. If I may say so, Sir Dennis, with your permission, the Conservative party in this country cannot claim a great deal of credit for national health insurance. If the hon. Member for Mitcham will look up the Debates which took place in 1912, he will find that more than 100 supporters of the Conservative party in the House voted against national health insurance, and the late Mr. Bonar Law wrote to the "Times" saying that when his Government took control they would repeal this legislation. Therefore, I suggest that the hon. Member had better read history before he starts giving lectures on this point.


I have been loth to deprive the hon. Member of the opportunity of answering or referring to what had already been said by another hon. Member, but we must not let this discussion develop into a general Debate, either on national health insurance or on the question of the conduct of the National Government.


I had not the slightest intention of entering upon a general De- bate, but, when we are told that this Amendment has been moved purely for demonstration purposes, that statement needs an answer. Whether the House appreciates it or not there is a great deal in what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield). Those who are affected by a Clause of this kind are people who have had very little out of health insurance. Personally, I never drew a penny piece from it, and I was very pleased that I did not, because I would much rather be healthy. Thousands of these men went into health insurance at the age of 25 or 30, and worked continuously from that time until they were thrown out of work three or four years ago. They never drew a single penny of benefit, but now, after three years, they have exhausted their insurance period, including even the extended period. The anxiety due to the fact of their being out of work has undermined their health, and, now that they can no longer draw anything from the Unemployment Assistance Board, they can only go back to the public assistance committee. We sincerely hope that the Government will give this matter serious consideration, and will make some provision for dealing with people who are placed in those circumstances.

4.59 p.m.


I should like to say a word in reply to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller). To-morrow, I believe, the House is to discuss proposals for certain distressed areas. The hon. Member suggested that there was no real hardship on persons who would not be able to receive the benefit of which they will be deprived under these Sub-sections, because they will be able to obtain that benefit from the public assistance committee.


I did not say that there was no hardship. I said that it would make no real difference if this benefit, which they lost under the Bill, were given to them by the public assistance committee. That would be a great benefit to them.


I think the hon. Member is doing violence to the meaning of language. If they were put in the same position as before, they would be under no hardship except the hardship which both classes are suffering now, and which is not under discussion—the hardship of being ill and of having to apply for public assistance. Surely, the hon. Member does not appreciate the actual situation. What occurs now is that, where a person is receiving sickness benefit, many public assistance authorities disregard—as, indeed, they are entitled, under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1934, to disregard—sickness benefit to the amount of 7s. 6d. But if one poor person who is sick can have his 7s. 6d. disregarded, and another sick person who is an applicant for public assistance is not receiving the 7s. 6d., in order to put those two persons on the same basis the public assistance authority have to find the 7s. 6d. When are the distressed areas going to receive something other than lip service from the Government? The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer make speeches, but over and over again when an opportunity faces the House to come to the help of the distressed areas they do not take advantage of it. In my country the public assistance rate is exceedingly high, and in the last few years it has been made much higher by having to find these amenities which were formally found by the Insurance Fund. The hon. Member does not appreciate that the public assistance rates now are largely subscribed by the poor people themselves, and, if we could take this burden off the public assistance rates and put it upon the Insurance Fund in some way or other, we should reduce the rates and at the same time remove many of these people from the stigma of the Poor Law. I should have thought if there was one practical direction in which the Government could have come to the help of these heavily rated areas they would have taken advantage of this opportunity.

We have been reminded over and over again in the Debates on this Bill that, had it not been for the financial genius of the National Government, the Bill would have been impossible. The Bill was introduced because unemployment had depleted the

Insurance Fund, and, now that employment has increased, the fund is again replenished and the Government are able to restore what they formerly took away. It follows that, if the finances of the country had not been restored, these people, the weakest and hardest hit section of the population, would have been called upon to make the heaviest contribution to the national finances. In other words, this Bill is not brought forward as an act of justice. It is not brought forward because the Government realise that a most unjust and cruel thing was done, but it is brought forward by the accident of good fortune. We are told that if unemployment had not been reduced or, alternatively, if employment had not increased, these poor old men at 65 years of age would have been deprived of the pension. Is that the assumption upon which the Bill has proceeded, and are we to assume that, if ever financial stringency occurs again, if ever the country gets into difficulties again, the first to receive the axe will be the old and the sick?


The hon. Member is getting a little wide of the Amendment.


If I am offending, I am doing so because I am replying to an argument—


That has already been referred to. There comes a time when these things must come to an end.


It seemed to me that the time had arrived when we should not allow supporters of the Government to get away with it quite so easily and that we should point out to them and the country where their logic leads, that if we are again in difficulties we shall unload those difficulties on to the weakest shoulders in the community.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'disablement' in line 31, stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 219; Noes, 37.

Division No. 264.] AYES [5.6 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton, Ralph Blindell, James
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bossom, A. C.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Boulton, W. W.
Albery, Irving James Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Bower, Commander Robert Tatton
Anderson, Sir Alan Garrett Beit, Sir Alfred L. Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.
Aostruther-Gray, W. J. Bernays, Robert Bracken, Brendan
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Guy, J. C. Morrison Percy, Lord Eustace
Broadbent, Colonel John Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Petherick, M.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hales, Harold K. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. Ernest (Leith) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pownall, Sir Assheton
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hartington, Marquess of Procter, Major Henry Adam
Burnett, John George Hartland, George A. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Butler, Richard Austen Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Caine, G. R. Hall- Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Remer, John R.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Rickards, George William
Castlersagh, Viscount Holdsworth, Herbert Ropner, Colonel L.
Cautley Sir Henry S. Horsbrugh, Florence Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir Edward
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Howard, Tom Forrest Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Runge, Norah Cocll
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Russell, R. J. (Eddlsbury)
Clarry, Reginald George Hurd, Sir Percy Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Salt, Edward W.
Colfox, Major William Philip Jackson, Sir Henry (Wendsworth, C.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Samuel, M. R. A. (W'ds'wth, Putney).
Cooks, Douglas James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Savery, Servington
Cooper, A. Duff Ker, J. Campbell Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Cooper, T. M. (Edinburgh, W.) Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univ.) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Copeland, Ida Kirkpatrick, William M. Smiles, Lieut. Col. Sir Walter D.
Crooke, J. Smedley Knox, Sir Alfred Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Smithers, Sir Waldron
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Somervell, Sir Donald
Crossley, A. C. Levy, Thomas Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lewis, Oswald Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Davison, Sir William Henry Liddall, Walter S. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunllffe- Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Dickie, John P. Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Doran, Edward Llewellin, Major John J. Spens, William Patrick
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Lloyd, Geoflrey Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Drewe, Cedric Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Duckworth, George A. V. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Stones, James
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. Sir Charles Stourton, Hon. John J.
Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony MacAndrew, Major J. O. (Ayr) Strauss, Edward A.
Edmondson, Major Sir James McCorquodale, M. S. Strickland, Captain W. F.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Elliston, Captain George Sampson McKie, John Hamilton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Elmley, Viscount McLean, Major Sir Alan Sutcliffe, Harold
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Tate, Mavis Constance
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Macmillan, Maurice Harold Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Maitland, AdamThorp, Linton Theodore
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Titchfleid, Major the Marquess of
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Tufnell, Liout.-Commander R. L.
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Marsden, Commander Arthur Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Martin, Thomas B. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Wayland, Sir William A.
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Fox, Sir Gifford Meller, Sir Richard James (Mitcham) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Fremantle, Sir Francis Mellor, Sir J. S. P. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Wills, Wilfrid D.
Ganzoni, Sir John Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Womersley, Sir Walter
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Goldie, Noel B. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzle (Banff)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Worthington, Sir John
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Grigg, Sir Edward Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)
Grimston, R. V. Norie-Miller, Francis TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Orr Ewing, I. L. Sir George Penny and Captain
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Attlee, Rt. Hon. Clement R. Griffiths, George A. (Yorks, W. Riding) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Banfield, John William Grundy, Thomas W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Thorne, William James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) John, William Tinker, John Joseph
Cleary, J. J. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) West, F. R.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cove, William G. Lawson, John James Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Daggar, George Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelty)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Williams, Thomas (York. Don Valley)
Dobbie, William McEntee, Valentine L. Wilmot, John
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Mainwaring, William Henry
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Parkinson, John Allen TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Paling and Mr. Groves.

Question put, and agreed to.

5.14 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 30, at the end, to insert "or."

This is followed by an Amendment to leave out the words "or maternity" in the next line. I think I can make an appeal to the Committee in respect of maternity on much stronger grounds than even in the case of the last Amendment. On the Second Reading the late Minister, dealing with the benefits of national health insurance, said: Well known too, is the wide and extremely important nature of the benefits secured by this system—cash benefits in sickness and in a long period of disablement following sickness, and medical benefits during sickness. The cash benefit on maternity is, perhaps, one of the most important of all."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 5th June, 1935; col. 2063, Vol. 302.] It is on those lines that I want to press my case to-day. The question of maternity benefit is the most important of all, because such benefit is required at a time when there is most need in the house. I have particulars of a case to bear out what I am making. In the latter part of June I performed the opening ceremony of a hut for the unemployed in my division, and when you go to these places you hear all sorts of complaints as it is thought that a Member of Parliament is able to rectify everything. However, I was given particulars of a really genuine case of a collier, aged 36, who had been out of work since 1932 owing to the pit having closed down. He was an able-bodied man but had been unable to obtain work. He told me that he had eight children and that in respect of the last one just born he had been unable to obtain maternity benefit for his wife. He said that he had been unable to get it because he had been unemployed for so long. I said that if he would get me a note to that effect, I would bring the case forward when I had an opportunity.

I received such a note which was from the insurance society saying that the man was unable to draw any maternity benefit in respect of his wife owing to having been out of work since 1934. Do not hon. Members think that it would be of real benefit to the State if men in such circumstances could receive maternity benefit? The man had only one child at work. I have heard it said that when a man is unemployed children often come along, but in this case the children came with regularity, and naturally one would have thought that it would have been to the benefit of the State to see that all possible help was given to a family of that kind. This matter particularly touched me, because I happened to be one of ten children, and realised the needs of the household in those times. There was no national insurance benefit in those days, and one can visualise the circumstances of this family.

I admit that as far as it goes, the Bill is of benefit to the community, but we on these benches are asking that its provisions should be extended in certain particular directions, one of which is to keep on the maternity benefit. An hon. Member behind asked what is the probable cost? I do not think that it would amount to very much, because a large number of the unemployed are elderly people of from 50 to 60 years of age, but the benefit would be a real help to families in a position similar to the one to which I have called attention. I was hoping that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would be here. She made a very strong appeal to the Government on the Second Reading to watch this point and stressed the need of maternity benefit. I followed her, and said that if the Noble Lady would put down an Amendment on the Order Paper we would be glad to support it. I waited to see if she would do so, as I believed that a number of Conservative Members would support her. Naturally, when we put down an Amendment it is always under suspicion, and I thought that if she would move an Amendment and obtain Conservative supporters we could weigh in afterwards and perhaps manage to carry it. But my strategy has not worked out in this case. The Noble Lady did not put down an Amendment, and it has been left to us to bring one forward. The Committee should pay close attention to the matter, which is of great importance, especially to the working classes.

5.21 p.m.


Everyone will be in agreement with the hon. Gentleman on the value of maternity benefit. It is of great value, and with the general lines of his approach to this matter I think that everyone must have the greatest possible sympathy. I would remind him, however, that in addition to the pro- vision of maternity benefit in the National Health Insurance Act, local authorities provide facilities in their hospitals and homes in connection with schemes of maternity and child welfare and do a great deal to assist in making better provisions in this connection. The point is not altogether immaterial, because in the majority of cases where women take advantage of these facilities—and I am glad that they are taking advantage of them more and more—the local authorities are entitled to, and in fact do, receive payment from the mothers for the facilities afforded to them. Therefore, from the point of view of pounds, shillings and pence, the local authorities in a number of these cases do receive something for the services which they provide.

The hon. Gentleman opposite will understand that I am not in any way attempting to belittle the value of this important provision of the Act. It is of great value as far as the insured women are concerned, and so is sickness and disablement benefit from the point of view of the men. Provision for payment during sickness and disablement is a very valuable right so far as insured men are concerned, and it is difficult to appraise the respective values of maternity benefit to women on the one hand and, of sickness and disablement benefit to men on the other hand. I know personally what I regard as the most valuable of the benefits, but I have no doubt that a large number of insured men in the country, looking at it from their point of view, would consider that sickness benefit was of considerable assistance to them, and I put it no higher than that. Therefore, the first thing I have to face in considering the Amendment is the fact that it is difficult from the point of view of logic and justice to extend the cash payment in respect of maternity without so extending sickness and disablement benefit, having regard to the fact that it is a national scheme which affords facilities for men as well as for women. Under the financial scheme of the Bill, there is no provision for the payment of maternity benefit to persons in the extended insurance period, and, unless the finances of the scheme were wholly recast, it would not be possible for such payments to be made. The approved societies of the country would naturally say that they had not the funds with which to make such payments, and I have no doubt that in the case of a number of societies it would not be possible for them to make such payments. Although I would personally like to see this extension—I believe we all would, as sympathy is not confined to any one quarter of the Committee—there is no provision as far as finances are concerned, and I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.


Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what would be the estimated cost of meeting this Amendment on the question of maternity benefit?


It is impossible to say.

5.26 p.m.


I was really amazed at the speech of the Minister this afternoon. Most enlightened people in this country are alarmed at the high maternal and infant mortality rates in this country, and one would have thought, that the Minister would have welcomed an opportunity of this kind to do something in order to try and reduce that mortality. Some of us can speak with a certain amount of emotion upon this matter, but I desire in this House of all places to restrain myself. Had it been possible for my mother to have obtained the benefit provided for in this Amendment she would probably have been alive to-day and young children would not have been deprived of maternal care for so many years. The Minister must appreciate what it means to an unemployed man when his wife is faced with this critical period in her life. An endeavour is made in these enlightened times to obtain nursing care. It is true that local authorities are doing much, but it is equally true that in a large number of areas which are heavily depressed they cannot do what they would desire to do. It is impossible for the unemployed man either to pay for the attention which he obtains for his wife by that means or to pay anything in doctor's fees. The sum of £2 is the minimum amount paid by approved societies, and a larger sum is paid by many societies, and it is a, tremendous help on occasions of this kind.

The Minister ought really to reflect again upon this matter as it will indicate the mind of the Government if they reject the Amendment. He must know that conferences which are being held by nurses, doctors and women's organisations in the country are stressing the high maternal and infant mortality rates. There are very few enlightened professional organisations which are not passing resolutions expressing alarm about the matter, and here is an opportunity of doing something in a very small way. It might not meet a very large number of cases, but, if it saved a few scores of mothers a year, the Minister ought to seize the opportunity of accepting the Amendment. I was surprised to hear his argument that because he was obliged to reject cash benefits to men he was naturally obliged to reject such a benefit as this which concerns the mothers. There is no comparison. Because it cannot afford to do the expensive thing are we to be told that it cannot afford to do the least expensive thing? What does this mean to the mother and the child? It may mean that the mother's life may be saved and the child's life may be saved. There is no comparison in the benefits to the mother and the child and the sickness benefit, which is more expensive, which would apply to the unemployed man himself. We trust that the Minister will change his view. We look upon this as a very serious matter. His refusal to accept the Amendment rather indicates the view of that class of people who fail to appreciate all that this means to people who are destitute and down and out. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment, if not to-day then on Report stage.

5.31 p.m.


I hope that the Minister will listen with a favourable ear to the plea that has been made. There is no one here who would have the slightest hesitation in giving his approval to any action which might be taken to alleviate the distressful position of the prospective mother who knows that she is not going to get the benefits for which we are asking. My hon. Friend was not in the slightest degree exaggerating when he said that the country as a whole is perturbed about the serious condition that prevails with regard to maternal mortality. It will appear ruthless in the eyes of those who are affected if a concession of this description, which is almost generally agreed to, is to be refused. The Minister has already, done some- thing with which the country feels very satisfied, but I do not think the country will understand the arguments that he has put forward against the Amendment. The difficulty in regard to finance ought not to be outside the genius of himself and his colleagues in arranging matters so that there will be no trouble. On previous occasions the right hon. Gentleman has shown that he is capable of doing very heavy tasks and doing them well. He has the ability and the commonsense, and I hope that he will find a way out of the present difficulty.

He need not fear about what the men will think of this proposal. I do not think that the men who come within the purview of the Act would object to a woman being given benefit at a time when she so sadly needs it. I do not think that any man, married or single, would have the slightest hesitation in approving such action. Most of us within our own intimate knowledge have had experience of the unhappy results that have accompanied child-birth in its effects upon the mother. Such results are certainly within the knowledge of the man in the street who, either in his own household or within his own immediate circle, knows of trouble of that description. I believe that everyone would be thoroughly satisfied if the Minister could see his way to make this particular concession. I do not depreciate the enormous amount of work that has been and is being done in the improvement of maternity welfare centres, but I do say that if this particular concession were granted it would relieve the mind of many expectant mothers of anxieties which would otherwise prevail and which have from time to time serious effects before and after the child is born.

5.36 p.m.


I do not wish to add anything to the excellent speeches which have been made from the other side of the House, because there is no necessity. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision. It is more than ever certain that in the future the whole of the social reforms which will be initiated in this House will be initiated by the successors of the present Government. We on this side during the next few years will have to bear the responsibilities of government, and it is necessary that we should obliterate black spots of this kind which are distasteful to every human instinct. I firmly believe that human instincts are as deep down in the mind of the Minister of Health as in any Minister who has ever sat on those benches. He will have to find a, way to solve this comparatively small question, and we look upon him to do it quickly.

5.37 p.m.


I am very pleased to hear from the hon. Member opposite that there is to be continuity of policy by the successors of the present Government. We are all anxious that they will have a pleasant journey and that they will get on with legislation on the proper lines. The Amendment deals only with the extended period of insurance, that is, the period of grace which is given to an insured person after that person ceases to have any further call on the insurance body. If we properly understand insurance and its national obligations, then I am not concerned with the question of the liability to the approved societies. If we are going to be obsessed about the liabilities and commitments of the approved societies we are going to frustrate the very work which we are bound to carry out. If a woman is about to have a child that event must take place either in the home or in hospital. The hospital may be an institution for which they are able to pay or it may be a, Poor Law institution, and there is no woman whom I have known who wants her child to be born in a Poor Law institution. That being so, there is an obligation upon this Committee to do what is right and proper.

We all know the seriousness of the maternal mortality that is going on. There are many cases of abortion. There are many mothers who through depression end by committing suicide. Very often the mother dies because of the state of her mind. If we want to do what is proper we must do it now. Certainly, there is one thing that we cannot allege, and that is malingering. Whatever may be said against the father, sister or brother in regard to their drawing benefit through malingering, no one can say that a case of child-birth is malingering. Therefore, in such a case there is a duty which falls upon the State to give every possible protection to the mother and the child. There is nothing unusual in the Amendment. The liability falls upon the society. It is a question of adjustment. No one can estimate what will be the number of births in any one period. When the Minister was asked for a computation in regard to the number he said he could not give it. Neither the Minister of Health nor an approved society is able to say how many births there will be, but one thing is certain, if my memory serves me aright, and that is that there is a falling birth rate. Seeing that there is a falling birth rate, then the question of equity comes in. We can have a levelling up. With falling birth-rate there will be a fall in the liability on the societies, and there can be an adjustment.

Whether a society in its adjustment of births and deaths can make things right or not, has nothing to do with the case of the mother who is going to have a child. She has a claim if her husband is an insured member. The husband is the insured member and by right of his being an insured member he is entitled to claim the maternity benefit for his wife, but he cannot handle it. The money is payable only to the wife. Therefore, I contend that inside the National Health Insurance Act there is a special preferential treatment given to the legitimate claim in regard to birth which entitles the wife to make a claim. That being so, what is there wrong in regard to the Minister applying exactly the same in regard to this particular benefit that is applied in the case of Class K contributors? If a single woman gets married and notifies her society she goes on what is known as the Class K contributors, and at any period within two years can claim maternity benefit. That is a claim which is given to a person who has left the society, who has nothing more to do with it. She is classified as no longer employable but yet is a burden on the society; it is a liability which the society must meet.

I am not going to complain in regard to this Bill because there is a lot in it about which we ought to be glad. It will do a great amount of good, although we want it to do more. Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept this Amendment. From the point of view of sickness benefit and disablement benefit the liability of 26 weeks at £1 a week on a society would be a tremendous lot. You may have 200 or 300 cases in a society which go on for 26 weeks. That would mean a liability running into thousands of pounds a, year, and the liability for the remaining period of 26 weeks at 10s. per week, that is £39 at the end of a year and a half, is also a tremendous liability. But there is not much liability in this Amendment. This is a matter of a, £2 maternity benefit for the period of extended insurance only. It is a liability which falls at the end of a year and nine months or perhaps a year and six months in some cases. If that is so, what is there in this to make Any society afraid of it? Why should we not give mothers the benefits of medical attention and service, and what is there in this case of the £2 maternity benefit to make it a liability on any society?

If there are any members of approved societies in this country who will say that these benefits are not to be given to women, then the sooner we pool the whole of the societies the better. There is not one, in my opinion, who will say that in order to protect their vested interests in a society this £2 maternity benefit ought not to be paid. If the Government is a National Government—I have grave doubts about it—if it is a sane Government—I have great doubts about it—And if the Minister knows his business, I have no doubt about that, and will act as a Minister of Health should, he will accept the Amendment. It is an Amendment which any man who has any knowledge of national health insurance would accept and which any Minister of Health who knows his job would accept. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision and to allow this small concession, which, however, would be a great boon to the whole of the people who come under national health insurance.

5.51 p.m.


I also want to make an appeal to the Minister on this point. I have supported the Government on every Amendment that has been moved, because I think the Bill is on the right lines. If you are to have a contributory scheme of national insurance, it must be on sound lines. There may be an argument against a contributory scheme, but so long as it is in force you must keep it financially sound. This particular benefit would not endanger the financial soundness of the scheme. I have had some experience in this matter, and there is no more tragic circumstance than to find a home where a birth has taken place with little or no provision for the little extras which are necessary at that time. It may be difficult for the Minister to grant this concession now, but I hope he will look into the matter again and that, after having counted the cost, which he is perfectly right in doing, he will promise, in answer to the appeals that have been made to him, to accept the Amendment on the Report stage.

It is the women folk who are the chief sufferers in these cases. They have to bear not only the birth of the child but very often the financial responsibility as well. The ordinary working woman is to me an absolute marvel. Very often members of my own sex do not take on the responsibilities which they ought to take. Every Member of Parliament knows that if there is a difficulty about paying rates or rent it is usually the woman who sees the Member of Parliament. In these cases we could ease her burden considerably. We are also much concerned with looking after the welfare of the child. If there is one thing about which we can well be proud, it is the development of our social services as far as the child is concerned. There we are starting aright, because prevention is better than cure. I make a, strong appeal to the Minister on the ground that the child should have proper nourishment and attention from birth. There are many adults who would have been much better than they are if they had had the necessary care and nutrition in the early stages. As one who really appreciates the Bill, it is a splendid Bill—and we accept with every good grace the restoration of many benefits—I should be more pleased if the Minister will make us a promise to consider between now and Report whether he can accept the Amendment. If he does, there is not a single Member of Parliament who will not appreciate his act, and he will have the whole country behind him in the matter.

5.54 p.m.


I must apologise for not having been in the House during the whole of the Debate, but I hope the Committee will give me a few moments of their indulgence, because I feel that I must speak in support of the Amendment. It deals with a class of humanity who cannot help themselves. It may be that it is the women folk who suffer most in this particular case, but I submit that the children themselves must also be considered, because they will suffer much more in the long run if there is any lack of proper care and attention. Very often the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and in this case the Minister has a splendid opportunity for seeing that the children have a fair start in life. If he will agree to accept the Amendment, he will give them every opportunity for proper care and attention. In Italy marriages are encouraged and the happy couple are encouraged by subsidies to have children. Cannot we in this country do a little more for the young folk and help them to those benefits which any class of humanity deserves. I want to add my support to the views of other hon. Members who desire that the Minister will accede to the request that has been made to him.

5.56 p.m.


I hope the Minister has not said his last word on this subject. He has been urged by Members of all parties to give favourable consideration to the Amendment. I cannot withhold my sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman, because he is not the architect of the Bill, and I am sure that when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT he will appreciate that perhaps his speech may be gravely misunderstood in the country. He will admit that he did not give to the Amendment quite the serious consideration which it deserves, not because of the large number of cases which will be affected but because people who are interested in the problem of maternal mortality may regard his speech as indicative of his attitude towards the problem. In that case he will start what I hope will be a fruitful period of office at the Ministry under inauspicious circumstances. One point must be made in connection with the Amendment, the class of persons affected are those who have been subject to long periods of unemployment, where, consequently, the household resources have been almost completely exhausted. The Minister of Health said that many of these people would have available to them the excellent services of the local authority. That is so, but students of the problem have come to two conclusions. One is that local services are hopelessly inadequate. There is not a local authority, no matter how en- lightened it may be, which has all it wants to have in the way of local services.

I hold the view, which is not shared by many women folk, that it would be an excellent thing if most people were born in nursing homes, where skilled attention could be given far better than in their own homes. There is, of course, a deep prejudice among many women against such a, course, but I hope that in the course of a few years education will persuade women to take far more advantage of maternity homes. I do hope that far more maternity homes will be available for them. The next case is this: Many women are extremely reluctant to bring their confinement to the notice of the authorities. Many women hate having their children brought into the world under the auspices of the Poor Law. So they hesitate to avail themselves even of those poor law services which may be at their disposal. Therefore it seems to me that the answer given by the Minister is not altogether satisfactory. There has been very considerable anxiety about the high rate of maternal mortality. I have here a book which was written, I believe, in answer to an official publication upon the public health. It states that in 1933 the maternal mortality rate was 4.51 per thousand, the highest rate since 1911, when the present classification was introduced. There were 2,618 deaths directly due to pregnancy and childbirth. The writer goes on to say: The problems of maternal mortality and morbidity fall roughly into two classes. In the first class there are the general fitness of the expectant mother, her physique, her health and her nutrition. The Committee should bear in mind that these are mothers whose physical resources have already been gravely depleted by the long years of unemployment of the father. Here is an expectant mother whose general health would presumably be bad and who would be much more likely to suffer ill consequences from child-bearing than any other. The writer referred to goes on: In the second are her preparation for the actual pregnancy and confinement, and the skill with which she is attended during labour and delivered of her child. Here is a material point: If a poor woman in these circumstances can look forward to a lump-sum payment, no matter how small, she is much more likely to call in the assistance of a visiting nurse or someone like that, to whom she will be able to make some sort of payment and who would be able to direct her attention to any difficulties that might arise in child-bearing. That is a very important consideration. It is not the sum of money that matters so much as the state of mind it induces in the woman and the steps it might lead her to take, which would result in calling in a physician, and probably her being taken away to a maternity home to avoid the dreadful consequences that might otherwise follow. I hope hon. Members will appreciate the point that things may occur which are afterwards irrevocable. You cannot put them right subsequently. If a mother dies and the child is born in difficulties, the child may suffer from something which will make it a permanent invalid and a permanent charge on the community. That is not only a personal tragedy most poignant, but it is also very short-sighted public administration to withhold help which would result in the birth of a healthy citizen.

Even if the Minister cannot accept the Amendment, I hope he will look at it again before the Report stage and see what he can do. The argument that it might cost a lot of money to the approved societies, and that they would not be able to support the charge, ought not to be supported by a Minister who has said that he is unable to estimate the cost. These two arguments in such close juxtaposition suggest an attitude towards the Amendment which might be highly undesirable. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take advantage of the opportunity to relieve himself of such an exposed position. I am sure that the cost upon the approved societies would not be onerous and that they could quite easily bear it; and acceptance of the Amendment would give to those interested in the problem an assurance of the Minister's sympathetic interest.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that, having committed the larger crime on another proposal, he must now be allowed to commit the smaller one. That really is not good enough. The men would not complain. As a matter of fact the men would be pleased, even upon the level of the lowest possible self- interest. If this benefit were conceded they would be justified in coming forward and asking for an additional cash benefit. It cannot be argued that grave injury must be done to the future citizens of Great Britain, and that women must lose their lives, in order that men should not have a case for additional cash benefits. We shall not listen to that argument. The right hon. Gentleman should go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor said in his Budget speech that he proposed to give £10 a year additional rebate for every additional child because the birth rate is falling. If the Chancellor is able to give a rebate to Income Tax payers in order to encourage the birth rate, the Minister of Health ought to be able to give £2, in effect, in order to prevent the horrible consequences now being caused.

6.8 p.m.


This is the most interesting discussion we have had today. I have an impression that the debate has shaken the right hon. Gentleman a little, and that before we get away from this Amendment he may rise and say that he will look into the problem again. If he has not made up his mind in that way, may I state my way of dealing with the problem? The Bill is primarily intended to provide that unemployed persons shall not lose their pension rights or medical benefits. That is the main object. Having safeguarded the unemployed in that respect, the Bill goes further and says that in certain cases of unemployment there will be no maternity benefit payable. It seems to me that if there were a choice between the claim of the woman in confinement and the claim of the unemployed man and the old age pensioner, the vote of the ordinary individual would go first and foremost in favour of seeking to pay maternity benefit. The thing is not balanced properly at present. We have had the answer that the approved societies cannot afford to pay this maternity benefit. I am not going into the old, old story. I see that the hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir R. Meller) does not like our rubbing that in.


I do not mind at all.


I hope that in future we shall be able to rub it in properly, with salt. I was able to sit on that ad hoc Committee which dealt with maternal mortality. There were eminent people there representing the Conservative party and the Liberal party, and in my humble way I was supposed to represent the proletariat. I would like the Minister to listen to this argument. If maternity benefit is not payable in respect of a confinement in an unemployed man's home, the automatic result is that there is no payment for the midwife. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has a, copy of the report to which I have referred. It was commented upon in the Press. That report stated definitely that one of the main reasons for the increase in maternal mortality in this country is that the midwifery services are not up to date. The midwife has not kept pace with modern requirements, and the proposal of the Committee is to compel all the local authorities of the country to employ midwives and to pay them from the rates. There is no alternative to that as a start. If that be so, if maternal mortality is increasing because the midwife is not paid, and if Parliament says that the approved society shall not pay maternity benefit in respect of confinement, the position is aggravated.

I wonder whether I appeal to the Minister's mind by putting it in that way? I am sure that in his Department he has one or two arguments of that kind before him. The right hon. Gentleman used the argument that if maternity benefit were paid he would have to give way in regard to the payment of sickness and disablement benefits. Of all the events that confront men and women I think confinement is paramount. Ordinary sickness and disablement are not to be compared with it. I appeal to the Minister to look at the problem again, in order at any rate that we might find out one thing which I cannot understand. We get an actuary's report on all manner of problems connected with health insurance. Indeed, the Government actuary can tell us to a recurring decimal what any proposal will cost. I am surprised, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman has not asked the actuary to tell him what is the probable cost of the proposal that we make. I know that the costs might be heavy on the funds of the societies, but I know too that if the Ministry of Health has been able to secure £750,000 a year to launch this scheme to help the unemployed and keep them in pensions and medical benefits, at any rate it ought to have had a little more compassion and come down in favour of the woman in confinement, and to pay her maternity benefit, so that the money may be paid ultimately for the services of a competent midwife.

6.15 p.m.


Before commenting on the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite and in other parts of the Committee upon this Amendment, the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) will allow me a personal observation upon the tale of the £2,000,000 of which he says the approved societies were deprived in 1926. I hope that in connection with that matter he will not forget the £10,000,000 which was applied to starting the Old Age Pension scheme and would in any case rather counterbalance what he thinks was done on that occasion.


Yes, but most of those pensions are paid for by the employers and the employed.


I am referring to the £10,000,000 which was the cost to the State at that time, and when the hon. Member brings my action into question in the future, I hope he will not forget that little contribution which was made in 1926, the first of its kind in any country in the world, and one which has brought considerable benefit to the widows and orphans of this country. Whether at Manchester or elsewhere, when he is referring to me—no doubt, in friendly terms—and mentions this £2,000,000, I hope he will not forget also to mention that £10,000,000 provided by the State as a very great contribution towards these widows and orphans.

I would say at the outset that I sympathise with the objects of which hon. Members have spoken. We would all like to secure improvements in the conditions of mothers and children, and I think we would all like to be able to make an increased contribution in respect of maternity benefit. In fact, I would offer the comment, in no unfriendly way, that one could make speeches of the kind which we have heard not only in favour of this proposal but in favour of doubling the maternity benefit or advocating the payment of maternity benefit to women who are not contributors. The object of giving some benefit to expectant mothers must command the sympathy of everybody in this Committee. We would all be very glad indeed to see increased payments in this respect, provided the money is used in the proper way, as I have no doubt it is in most cases. What I want hon. Members to understand is that we here are supposed to occupy a responsible position and I, myself, at any rate for a short time, am responsible in no small degree for a contributory insurance scheme. That is the real answer to the various pleas that have been made. As long as we have a contributory insurance scheme in this country, those responsible for it are bound to see that it is run on proper business lines and, however eloquent the plea, however excellent the object, hon. Members cannot expect any one who has that responsibility to give way an inch, when it comes to the question of affecting the stability of the insurance scheme itself or departing from the contributory principle.

I know that some hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree with the contributory nature of the scheme, but as long as it is a contributory scheme—and I am very strongly in favour of it as such—the contributory principle must be maintained. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the scheme brought it in as a contributory scheme; it has remained a contributory scheme ever since and is likely to continue as a contributory scheme, provided that it is run on business principles. No one, I think, wants to see the National Health Insurance scheme run the risk of what happened in the case of the Unemployment Insurance scheme. Therefore, my first duty is to try to maintain the stability of the scheme. It is perfectly true that I did not state the amount which this Amendment would cost, but, as the hon. Member for Westhoughton himself said, the cost will be substantial. If this Amendment were accepted, it would mean completely re-casting the finances of the scheme.


The right hon. Gentleman is now confining himself entirely to the insurable aspect of the matter in the case which he is making. Surely, in order to convince the Committee he will furnish some estimate of the cost?


The hon. Member for Westhoughton, who is at present leading the Opposition, and who knows as much about this matter as anybody else, agrees that it would be a substantial amount, and I was just about to point out that the approved societies have already made a considerable contribution in respect of the proposals of this Bill. I think the amount is £750,000. In those circumstances, I do not feel that we can be expected to run any risks in relation to the scheme at the present time.


The right hon. Gentleman is laying great emphasis on one word out of a whole sentence which I used, but is it not possible for him to say how many persons would be affected by the Clause with which we are now dealing? It would not be impossible to calculate then what proportion of that number would fall to be dealt with as from the beginning.


I think the best answer to the hon. Member is that, whatever the number may be, the finances of the scheme are now such that, with this further contribution of £750,000 in relation to the approved societies, no one would take the responsibility of suggesting that those societies should bear another burden. That is really the reply to other hon. Members who have spoken. Whatever the actual cost may be, we are agreed that it must be a substantial cost, and, in view of the contribution from the societies to which I refer, no one would take the responsibility of jeopardising the financial structure of the Bill. It is not as if we could consider the financial structure of the Bill in relation to one society. It is necessary to consider the position of a number of approved societies throughout the country. It is for that reason and having regard to the principles of the scheme, and not out of any desire to withhold the benefits from expectant mothers, or anything of that kind, that anyone with responsibility must decline to accept the Amendment.

I would also point out to hon. Members that, to a large extent, provision is being made. I have been examining this matter lately and I find that that extensive provision is made for the mother and child in this country. This is not a simple matter. It is not easy to assign a reason for the lack of improvement in the maternal mortality figure. Anyone who has given it any study knows how complex is the question. This high maternal mortality rate exists in rich neighbourhoods as well as poor neighbourhoods. It affects rich people and poor people and is a very difficult problem indeed. I would only emphasise—because I do not want any hon. Member to misunderstand me—that in regard to that aspect of the matter, we are endeavouring to make provision at present for the mother and child. It is only on account of the contributory nature of the scheme, which I desire to maintain, and the fact that the approved societies are already making the contribution I have mentioned, that I do not think it would be justifiable to accept the Amendment.

6.23 p.m.


I do not wish to press the Minister unduly, but this is a serious issue, and I think it is desirable that the Committee should have further information. I approach this question not only from the standpoint of the Member of this Committee considering this Bill but also from the standpoint of one who is interested in a large approved society. I ask the Minister whether he will not give this matter further consideration between now and the Report stage? I do not think he has finally made up his mind. I felt that there was a little uncertainty about his utterance on this issue, and we who loyally support the Government on all these matters would feel more satisfied if the right hon. Gentleman announced that he would consult with the approved societies and investigate the whole question in order to see whether there is not the possibility of some adjustment of the financial position to meet this case.


I ask the Minister to take a note of the appeal which has just been made to him. If there is any chance of having the matter reconsidered we shall be glad to withdraw the Amendment for the time being but, if not, we shall have to force it to a Division.

6.25 p.m.


I think the Committtee has been left in an unsatisfactory position. There has been obvious agreement on the merits of the Amendment. It is agreed that the concession asked for is a limited one and one which should command sympathy and the Minister himself has expressed sympathy with it. I do not think that I misinterpret the right hon. Gentleman's speech when I say that he would like to be able to accept the Amendment. He gives two reasons for not doing so. One is that a large number of people are already getting benefit by reason of the action of the local authorities. That is admitted but the Minister must in turn admit that it does not cover all the cases. There are cases not covered by those services and those are the cases to which the Amendment refers. The second reason adduced by the Minister is that we cannot afford it. Who cannot afford it? The right hon. Gentleman says the approved societies cannot afford it. We then ask him for some information which will enable us to judge whether that is so or not.

Knowing the right hon. Gentleman as I do, I am sure he does not conduct his Department on the principle of accepting whatever the approved societies tell him. We would all expect him to make inquiries, to address himself to the approved societies, to ask them whether they had estimated the cost and on what grounds they felt they could not afford this concession. But the right hon. Gentleman says he has not put these questions to the approved society and that he has not asked them how many people are likely to be affected. Surely he must recognise, however efficient as a Minister he may be, that it is for this Committee and ultimately the House of Commons to decide whether this concession should be made or not. Before the Committee can decide it is entitled to information on those two specific points—how many people are likely to be affected and what is the estimated charge which will be involved on the approved societies. With that information, we would be in a position to judge whether the advice tendered to the Minister by the approved societies is advice which ought to guide us in respect of this Amendment.

6.29 p.m.


I wish briefly to reinforce the appeal which has been made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir L. Thompson) and supplemented by the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. E. Evans). We all wish to be certain whether the position as outlined by my right hon. Friend could not be improved if the approved societies were consulted in this matter. The speech of my right hon. Friend in which he laid emphasis on the contributory nature of the Bill and the responsibility for keeping the contributory scheme solvent, would naturally have the sympathy of Members who support the National Government. I want to put the position of those women who will be affected by the Bill in that they will not be able to draw maternity benefit. I know there are special organisations throughout the country which deserve every credit, but, as a Member of Parliament working in a very distressed area, I frequently come across cases of women who apparently have no information as to what to do when they require assistance.

I feel very strongly that, even if it were just to let those particular women know that we are considering their position and that we do not want to place them in the position of not being able to draw any benefit, my right hon. Friend might consider the advisability of announcing to the world that we are doing everything we can to strengthen our maternity benefit, which, after all, is the intention of the Government. I think it would give very great satisfaction if my right hon. Friend could see his way to reconsider his decision and to discuss with the approved societies whether there is not some way of meeting the present situation. After all, this question places the supporters of the Government in a very difficult situation. It may be that we cannot meet the position in the present Bill. In that case, let my right hon. Friend see what provision can be made for those who will not be covered by these maternity proposals. We really desire a little more information from the Government on a matter on which all of us feel very strongly.

6.33 p.m.


I, also, want to make an appeal to the Minister. I have a great deal of sympathy with him in the attitude he has taken up, but I think that, as the Mover of the Amendment has already stated that he is prepared to withdraw the Amendment, not if the Minister would promise to accept it, but only if he would promise to look into it, in these circumstances, and as my right hon. Friend has not been able up to the present to say what he is in fact going to do, he might tell the Committee that he will look into the question before the Report stage to see what the Amendment would cost, and if it is going to prove too expensive, he could tell us so at a later stage.

6.34 p.m.


This is the most interesting discussion before the country at the present time. The eyes of all working women in the country are upon this Committee to-day, and I am very disappointed at the attitude of the Minister in this matter. Someone has asked what the cost will be. The only cost that some people are bothered about is the monetary cost, but what has been the cost in lives during the past three years? During the apst three years the deaths in this country arising in and out of maternity have been 10,235, and the thing that is disturbing the women of this country is the fact that we are not reducing the maternity death-rate. It is increasing. The number in 1932 was 3,300, in 1934 it was 3,444, and I ascertained by a question to the late Minister of Health, previous to his leaving that office, that the number for 1934 was 3,495, or 51 more deaths this last year than in the previous year, when the deaths were 144 more than they were in 1932.

The late Minister of Health stated 12 months ago, when we were discussing this matter across the Floor, that the Department was giving very serious attention to it, and that if there were no better results shown, they would have to try fresh remedies. The remedy that we are trying in this Clause is that maternity benefit that has been given to some folk in the past is not to be given in the future. I am amazed that the Minister cannot give us the estimated cost so far as this Clause is concerned. It does not mean everybody who is on State insurance; it means only a very small number. The majority of us on this side, and a good number of hon. Members opposite who represent industrial constituencies, understand how vital this question is. I can tell the Committee a personal story that might make hon. Members laugh. I was born in pawn myself. That is to say, that when I arrived upon the scene there was no money to pay the midwife. I was the fourth lad of 10, and the money that came into our home, although my father was as good a workman as ever broke bread, was insufficient to meet that expense. I do not want us to go back to those days.

If these women are deprived of maternity benefit, it means, as far as the midwife is concerned, that it will be a matter of inferiority. They will have to get the cheapest midwife, and it will mean, in the case of an unemployed man, that that midwife will have to wait for her money, and she will get her money in penny numbers. I hope the Minister, after the appeals that have been made from all sides of the Committee, will give way. I was hoping that the women of this country would be able to acclaim him as a very good successor to the Minister who has gone out of office, but I am afraid that when this Debate is read to-morrow morning in the papers by the working women of this country that they will begin to feel that the diplomacies of the last Minister are still with us and that the hopes in the present Minister are very few and far between.

6.38 p.m.


I am willing, as appeals have been made to me from all parts of the Committee, to look into the matter again. I feel as much sympathy with the Amendment as does anyone else, and the only trouble is that I have a little more responsibility than some of the hon. Members who have made appeals to me. After all, the stability and security of the insurance scheme mean a great deal to them. I have marked—I hope I am correct in interpreting the statements made on this question—a very sharp division in the requests for maternity benefit in these cases and for other benefits. One hon. Member rather frightened me by saying that if we gave way on maternity benefits, there would be claims for other benefits. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, as long as we are clear on this matter, it encourages me to look further into it. After all, it is a considerable question of principle on the one hand and of cash benefit on the other, and I hope the Committee will recognise that it is not because of any lack of desire to help mothers and children or to meet the wishes of the Committee that I have not been able to accept the Amendment. The Government desire to maintain the stability of the scheme and not to do anything rash. Perhaps the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), on my undertaking to look into the matter afresh, will agree that I have met him as reasonably as I can and withdraw his Amendment.


In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 32, to leave out from "until," to "during," in line 34, and to insert: since the end of his free insurance period he has been employed within the meaning of this Act.

This is a consequential Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 3, line 39, at the end, insert: Provided that this Sub-section shall not apply to a person who is employed within the meaning of this Act at the beginning of an extended insurance period and, would, if he had ceased to be so employed immediately before that date, have then been entitled to a new free insurance period.

In line 40, leave out from the beginning to "until," in line 44, and insert: (5) Notwithstanding anything in Subsection (2) of this Section—

  1. (a) a person who has been continuously employed within the meaning of this Act since before the beginning of an extended insurance period shall, on ceasing to be so employed, become entitled to a new free insurance period if he would have become so entitled had he ceased to be so employed immediately before the beginning of that extended insurance period;
  2. (b) in any other case a person who is so employed during an extended insurance period shall not, on ceasing to be so employed, become entitled by reason thereof to a new free insurance period unless and."

In page 4, line 15, at the end, insert: Provided that this Sub-section shall not apply to a person who becomes a voluntary contributor immediately on ceasing to be so employed if he would have been entitled to a new free insurance period had he not become a voluntary contributor.—[Sir K. Wood.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.